The Right Thing Is Not So Simple Anymore

We all knew people like this when we were younger: they were brash; they didn’t take crap; they didn’t keep quiet. If they disagreed with something you said, or didn’t like something you did, they said something to you. They hated hypocrites. They shook their heads at the compromises that they saw older people make. They laughed at the way the oldies settled. They were angry with their parents for their conservative political and social beliefs. It drove them nuts. They were idealistic. In many cases, they were you. 

Well, now they—and we—are older. Now we’re the old people. And now we’re experiencing the same dilemmas we used to so glibly judge. 

Suddenly, it’s not so simple. We have a family. We have a mortgage. We have a career trajectory we’d like to continue. We’ve seen how the world works and, of course, that changes our opinion about things. 

In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s underrated short story, “The Four Fists,” he describes this situation perfectly. “People talk of the courage of convictions,” he writes, “but in actual life a man’s duty to his family may make a rigid course seem a selfish indulgence of his own righteousness.” 

This isn’t to excuse craven sellouts or to defend selfish hypocrites. It’s just to state an obvious fact: Once you have a family, once you’ve worked hard for something, once you have something to lose, things are not so simple anymore. And if you’ve been rudely punched in the face by the facts of life, you can’t afford to be immature about it. You can’t be an ideologue or a fanatic. Too much is depending on you. There are too many variables. You’ve got to deal with it.

That means you have to figure out the balance right now. How to do the right thing—for your family and the world. How to balance the interest of your kids and our kids. How to pursue your ambitions and to win at life… without punishing (or abandoning) your kids and your spouse. How to balance this immense responsibility of caring for what’s yours… without forsaking or forgetting the fact that everyone else is in the same bind. 

It won’t be easy. In fact, it may end up requiring more courage to do this right. 

But you can do it.

P.S. This was originally sent on February 1, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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