Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, said that every situation has two handles. You can get frustrated with your brother, he said, or you can choose instead to remember that he is your brother and that you love him and that you’d rather not fight.
This idea that situations are always presenting us with two options—an easy one and the right one—is one that every dad needs to understand. Because isn’t that what fatherhood is all about? Each day, possibly hundreds of times per day, you’re presented with situations. A kid who lied to you about doing their homework. A wife who snapped at you. A car that’s got to be taken in for an oil change. A boss with their head up their ass. Grandparents that your kids love but who drive you nuts. A family you’ve got to get to the airport two hours before takeoff.
Which handle are we going to choose of the two presented to us? The easy handle is getting angry. Or pulling away. Grabbing a beer from the fridge and checking out. Fantasizing about the future. Holding on to grudges. Arguing. The right handle is taking a deep breath. The right handle is apologizing. The right handle is empathy. The right handle is lending a hand. The right handle is doing your job. The right handle is letting go a little bit, not trying to be such a control freak.
Everyday, every situation, is a choice. Which handle will we grab? Which handle will we show our kids how to grab? The easy one? Or the right one?