This Is Criminal

You weren’t the parent you wanted to be in 2022. You weren’t the person you wanted to be in 2022. Almost no one was. And anyone who thinks or says they were is lying.

None of us were perfect. We all screwed up. We all back-slid. We all picked up bad habits. And as a parent, that means our kids picked up those bad habits too. Because, as we’ve said before, behavior is the language of children.

But the key questions are, who will pick themselves back up in 2023? Who will not give up? Who will stop the back slide? Who will, to borrow from Marcus Aurelius, “keep going back to it”? Who will keep going back to their self-improvement? Not just for your own self-improvement, but to model the behavior you want to see in your children.

Samuel Johnson didn’t have any kids, but near the end of 1775, with 1776 on the horizon, Johnson wrote about this beautifully in his diary,

“When I look back on resolutions of improvement and amendment which have year after year been made and broken, either by negligence, forgetfulness, vicious idleness, casual interruption, or morbid infirmity; when I find that so much of my life has stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retrospection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously employed, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal.”

Reformation is necessary and despair is criminal. We must keep trying. It’s okay if you have some bad days. All parents do. It’s okay to feel a little discouraged and overwhelmed. It’s okay if you stumble. The path to improvement is rocky—stumbling is inevitable. But to give up? To stop trying? To let the stumble turn into a catastrophic fall?

That is criminal. “Disgraceful,” Marcus Aurelius would say, “for the soul to give up when the body is still going strong.”

You can’t give up. Because that’s not the lesson you want to teach your kids. You won’t be perfect. But you do have to try. If not for yourself, for your spouse, for your kids, for your family.

For those ready for reformation, as we mentioned last week, we created the 2023 New Year New You Challenge. It’s a set of 21 actionable challenges—presented one per day—built around the best, most timeless wisdom in Stoic philosophy. Our goal is to help you and your family make 2023 your best year yet.

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