Bigger and Deeper not Smaller and Weaker
From the time that we are first able to make decisions, exercise autonomy and make rudimentary judgments in life, we have the choice to take the easy, convenient self-serving path in life or the path of ethics, empathy and integrity.
The first path comes naturally and is an expression of our innate survival instinct.The second path, which is about expressing our humanity, needs to be taught and coached into us until we develop the strength of character and experience to be able to choose the correct path on our own. Children need to be taught in every situation that confronts them to look deeper into themselves and others in order to fully understand the ramifications of the situation. In choosing how to react they need to take the path of being bigger, wiser and more refined.
For example a child gets invited to the party of one of the unpopular children in the class. She accepts the invitation, the following day the class “it kid” gives out invitations to her party on the same day as the first invitation. She risks being called a nerd, attending a party that no-one else would be seen at. On the other hand she has the opportunity to honour her values and commitment, do a great kindness, and stand against peer pressure. Alternatively she can choose to go with the crowd and forget the whole dilemma. A teenager commits to a holiday job at one rate which seems excellent and then at the last minute another offer comes up for a better rate, but it will mean letting someone down who was depending on you and breaking a commitment.
Consider the effect on the individual of making each of the choices. Does the easy convenient choice lead to becoming more mature, learning anything that will stand her in good stead later in life. Is she through that choice becoming someone that you would like to employ or marry? Who does the person become who takes the more difficult and less travelled road? Growing character is like growing muscle. If a person does too little by way or exercise and strain, they get weaker and feebler and become forced to take easy routes and avoid discomfort. Those that put in more or less the same constant effort maintain their strength but do not develop and grow. Only those that push their limits to breaking point develop superlative skill, grace, stamina and strength. When faced with dilemmas children need to be taught to show empathy and an understanding the values that are at stake.
Making choices that force us to get bigger and to go deeper are enabling, helping us to discover and express our full humanity.