Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Disappointment


When I was a young girl, my dad sat me down and gave me what has become one of my most treasured pieces of advice.  He looked me in the eye and said with great gravity, “Sooner or later, everybody is going to let you down.” 
Now you know why I’m such a happy-go-lucky kind of gal.

But in all seriousness, I’m very grateful to Dad for this wise advice and I fully intend to pass it on to my own kids. The sentence was originally said to Dad by a friend and of course there’s a story that goes with it.
When I first started school - when my parents were missionaries in a country far, far away - I was sent to boarding school. I was six years old.  It was about four hours from where we lived and so I only went home on school holidays.  In fact, I was one of the lucky ones because I got to do so every school holidays.  Other children had parents much further away and only got to see them once a year.

My time at boarding school was short-lived because we ‘returned’ to Australia after that first year. Don’t feel bad for me because it was one of the happiest years of my life and I had a ball.  I was very well cared for, the food was fine and the company was grand.  In fact, one of the other girls I lived with that year was matron of honour at my wedding.
But for my parents it was a very hard year. One week, Dad had a conference to attend in the capital city where my school was located.  But the schedule was very tight and he had no easy way of getting over to see me.  Then one afternoon, his very good mate was missing from the meeting.  When he returned, Dad asked him where he’d been.  He admitted he’d played truant for the afternoon so that he could go over and see his kids at school.  The same school I was at.  Dad was gutted. He hadn’t considered that Dad might want – might desperately want – to go to and see his child.

His friend apologized and looked Dad in the eye and said, “You know, sooner or later, everybody is going to let you down.”
And that’s the truth.

I’ve seen lots of good leaders suffer from a kind of Superman curse.  It wasn’t that they thought they were Superman, but those around them certainly acted like they were.  A leader with charisma and talent can get put on such a high, high pedestal by those he leads. Then when that poor guy falls short in some way, as he undoubtedly must do, he is burnt at the stake with a fire ten times hotter than that reserved for ordinary mortals.
No one – no one – can be so perfect that they’ll never let you down.  When you hold people to that kind of account, you are doomed to disappointment. Far from being this being an overly-grim summary of life’s relationships, that truth has kept me many a time from placing burdens on other people that they were never meant to carry.

And the truth cuts both ways.  Sooner or later, I am going to let everybody down.  Because I’m a fallen creature too.  I can’t put my ultimate trust in another person and I can’t put it in myself either.  That’s not where life’s firm foundation lies.
So thanks for the advice, Dad.  It’s certainly better than a smack in theface with a wet fish.

1 comment:

Ben McLaughlin said...

Another great post. Yeah, very good advice.

ps- aha, a misho's kid! Me too.