When we lose permission to reflect…


I read an article in the New Yorker once about what happened in Syria.  I was struck by one thing in particular about this article. It’s written as a conversation between two people. Here’s the part that made me pause:

At a certain point, caution is another word for indecisiveness. Obama looks weak! Or worse—indifferent. Anyway, he should have thought ahead when he called chemical weapons a “red line.” He set that trap a year ago, and now we’re in it.

Why does it have to be a trap?

Because our credibility is on the line.

I think we make this mistake in our own lives, with ourselves, all the time. Somewhere along the line I’ve bought into the idea that as a mother to properly “teach” my children well, I needed to react quickly and with decisiveness in every situation. I needed to prove that I was the one in control. I needed to match the consequence to the misdemeanor as close as possible in real time.

And perhaps in some situations that was true. Maybe when they were younger and touched something they shouldn’t have (let’s say the stove) teaching them “no, hot!” needed to be in close proximity.

But it seems this blanket idea of needing immediate reaction has gotten muddled and off track. Because ultimately, it started making me feel that my own sense of control in a situation was deeply tied to my ability to take immediate action. In fact immediate (re)action became a pseudonym for leadership. When, most of the time, if I took a minute to put on my glasses I could see more clearly what the real issue at hand was.

Thoughtful pause, consideration, deliberation… this began to mean indecisiveness and weakness; that I “missed out on striking when the iron was hot.”

As my children are growing, I realize how damaging this core belief is not only in my mothering, but in my life in general. When we lose the permission to pause, we lose access to wisdom. We give up the opportunity to make clearer, more thoughtful, more aligned choices in our lives because we fear giving ourselves time to think through how to respond to the situation means we lose some of our authority and control.

I think this is a socially pervasive core belief many of us have bought into. But most of the time, we’d do much better to allow the pause, seek true wisdom, and calmly decide on the best course of action (or consequence, or discipline, or communication).

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!