I remember when our children were very young. One woke up laughing, the other, not so much. For those of you who know my family, I will leave you to guess which child responded with laughter and which responded with tears.
And I remember trying to teach them to sleep through the night. (Of course, I also remember setting up a borrowed video camera and recording our first born while he slept. Pretty exciting video, isn’t it? But we were brand new parents.) But the process of training them to sleep through the night and go back to sleep when their little bodies awoke in the middle of the night was hard. There was a huge part of me that wanted to just pick them up and bring them into our bed and snuggle. It seemed that between my wife and I, only one of us would have the strength to deal with the crying. One of us would begin to cave in and the other would be strong. Then the roles would reverse. And on it went for days and days until we finally made it through the night.
What is a beleaguered parent to do?
Should I scoop them up and feed them every time they cried? Should I bring them into our bed to sleep? There is a problem with that approach. They were growing bigger, and they no longer needed to eat every two to three hours, and it would ultimately hurt them and be bad for them if we allowed them to never establish a healthy sleep pattern. They needed sleep, I needed sleep. Heaven only knows that their mother needed sleep!
So, what is the beleaguered leader to do?
The leadership lesson is that many times it is hard for people to get the concept that some hardship and some difficulty is necessary in life in order for our children to learn and to grow. It seems like the pendulum of our society has swung hard to the side of obtaining comfort, ease, and happiness at all times and at all costs. We may be in danger of raising a generation that no longer views work as a good and healthy pursuit, but rather it is more and more a means to support playtime, cars, trucks, and all manner of entertainment.
Perhaps this is why when hard times hit, or tragedy occurs (as they always do), people cannot begin to understand what has happened to them. Nor can they manage to find a way through hard work and perseverance to get out of the difficult situation that they find themselves in.
What does a leader need to consider today?
A Leader is Responsible for Their Relationships – Folks don’t seem to want to be responsible for their relationships or marriages when the hard times come. So, they move on to the next relationship.
A Leader is Responsible for Their Physical Health – Folks don’t seem to want to be responsible for their physical health. Don’t bother to eat right, just drink a shake and take some vitamins. When was the last time you sat down to a meal with real vegetables?
A Leader is Responsible for Their Financial Health – Folks don’t seem to want to be responsible for their financial health. The term “good steward” is not in their vocabulary.
A Leader is Responsible for Their Own Governance – Folks don’t seem to want to be responsible for governing themselves. I won’t go off on a political tirade. But folks are all too willing to let the government make all of their decisions and provide all of their wants and needs.
Am I generalizing?
Obviously, I am. But, the only reason you would even think that is because you have seen it and observed these things yourself.
How does all of this tie back to the example of my little ones learning to sleep through the night so many years ago?
It is simple really. I didn’t want to raise dependent, weak and incapable children who only know how to take the easy road. I wanted to raise children who were aware that life isn’t fair, that trials exist, and that we learn and we grow by facing adversity rather than running from it. I wanted them to be able to weather the storms that life sends their way. I wanted to see them become adults who take responsibility for their life and for their actions. I wanted them to grasp that what they do may have far reaching consequences. And I wanted them to be prepared to make the most important decision in life – – Who will they choose to marry and spend the rest of their life with?
I am a blessed man. My children have succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. They have each developed into strong, confident and capable members of society and they stand out because of the sometimes stark difference to modern culture. And here is the best part. They have each weathered the storms of life that have battered them from time to time.
In closing, consider this quote from an unknown author:
“All sunshine creates only deserts.”
A life of nothing but sunshine creates a barren and dry landscape. In that kind of environment, every living thing will wither and perish under the unrelenting sun. We all need a little rain from time to time.
Or consider what pastor and singer Wintley Phipps says about trials. He quotes an old southern black woman as saying:
“Child, if the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t climb it.”
You see, we need a few rough places to help us get to the next smooth place. And if we learn to face the storm and learn to endure the night, then the sunshine becomes much more precious to us.
There are many emotional intelligence and emotional agility implications to this topic. And I think that we need to view this in light of becoming more self-aware and more agile at then managing our own emotional responses.