A while back I was watching my favorite TV show, Joan of Arcadia. If you've never seen the series, I highly recommend it.
There's a scene in which Joan is resisting God's suggestion that she get her driver's license. As they discuss Joan's reluctance, it eventually comes to light that Joan's fear of hurting is not directed at herself. She's fearless on her own. However, her brother was paralyzed in a car accident, and Joan is scared of hurting other people just like what happened in that accident.
Then God says to Joan:
"Being an adult isn't merely about risking your own well-being, it means risking others' – in cars, in love, in family – hurting others is always a possibility. That's what's difficult about being an adult: facing the harsh fact that you may hurt others even when you don't want to."
When we walk the path of personal transformation, we "become an adult" as the God character describes. Our actions are no longer only for ourselves. They affect the world. When we change our lives we are putting ourselves AND others at risk.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, in 2009 I risked almost everything in my life. I filed for divorce, asked my employer to lay me off (which they did), and foreclosed on my home. I wasn't just risking my own livelihood. I was putting my son, former wife, employer, and even the bank who financed my mortgage all at some degree of risk.
And as I made those decisions, I had to weigh the risks vs. the rewards. Those decisions weren't flippant. They were made over the course of years. I even gave my employer a year's advance notice I was leaving.
Today, I can say with absolute certainty that I am extremely grateful for those decisions, however risky they were, for the rewards I have reaped. Rewards that were only possible by my willingness to be an "adult" and put myself and others at risk.
In love, we risk hurting the people we care about.
It's an inevitable consequence of getting close, being vulnerable, and sharing the deepest parts of ourselves with another human being. With so many deep-seeded subconscious issues that come up in relationships, conflict is inevitable.
Sure, we can learn tools, techniques, and do inner work to handle those conflicts with more grace. Still, the nature of conflict is that it creates the opportunity to hurt one another. In fact, I still recall a relationship I ended because I was young, immature, and felt so inexperienced that it seemed inevitable I'd hurt the other person. I wanted to stop the pain before I had a chance to inflict it.
Now in hindsight, I realize that I was feeling insecure with low self-esteem… and that is why I was unwilling to take a safe risk, with a great woman. Part of me subconsciously felt unworthy. One could say I wasn't yet "adult" enough to put both myself and the woman at risk.
Still, if you aren't willing to risk hurting your closest partner, then chances are you're both staying too small… unwilling to rock the boat… unwilling to reach for the experiences in life that will be most fulfilling to you.
In family, we are always walking the path of risk.
Our employment (or lack thereof) affects our families. So do the decisions we make about what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. We may not consciously think of it as risky. However, one only need look at the destruction caused in our world by people who identify with and/or condemn members of organized religions. Just the choice of what God to believe in is risky — let alone taking your family to a church, mosque, or synagogue.
How about the foods we choose to bring into our home? The examples we set for those around us? The people we associate with?
Every one of these elements brings an element of risk to our family.
Being a loving parent is a risk to our children.
My son is only 5, and many decisions I make will affect the rest of his life. It's inevitable as he grows up, he'll have some (hopefully not too many!) issues with how I raised him.
He'll probably say someday, "I will NEVER do to my kids what my Daddy did / said to me." Does that make me a bad father? Not at all. I'm an incredible parent, deeply conscious about how my words and actions affect him, and always looking out for the big picture.
Still, if I'm not willing to risk hurting him, I shouldn't be a parent. I won't be a perfect one, and I am a great one. Part of what enables me to be such a great parent is that I am willing to take conscious, calculated risks, for the betterment of my son's life.
Some of those risks I already know he'll thank me for when he's older, and I'm grateful I took them. Some of them have yet to come…
In leadership, our decisions affect others.
Every time I write an email, I take a risk that I might lead you –you personally– astray.
What if my advice is bad? What if you misinterpret what I said? What if I meant one thing and accidentally wrote another? What if you totally get it, but then in communicating these ideas to somebody else they get led astray and cause harm to another? (or even to you?)
I'm not perfect. I will make mistakes. And those mistakes actually put YOU at risk as long as you continue reading my emails.
And yet I still write. And you read. And together we are transforming the world.
Because at least today, to both you and I, the risk of me possibly hurting you is worth the reward of co-creating the kind of world we both want to live in.
The same is true of every place in your life where your reluctance is holding you back from creating the life of your dreams.
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