Caution (February 9)


“Be cautious. Opportunity does the knocking for temptation too” (Al Batt).

WHEN WE’RE CONFRONTED WITH DIFFICULT OR DANGEROUS CIRCUMSTANCES, WE NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS. There are forces at work in the world that will destroy us and our loved ones if we don’t watch out. In the living of a human life, it pays to be careful.

It is possible, obviously, to be overly cautious, and if that’s your problem, today’s reading may not be very helpful to you. But from my observation, those with that problem are in the minority. The swindlers of the world haven’t reported any downturn in their business lately; you don’t hear them complaining that people in general have become too cautious. No, I think P. T. Barnum (“There’s a sucker born every minute”) would be tickled to death if he were alive today.

We need to exercise caution in our beliefs. When we’re forming our basic beliefs, convictions, and even our opinions, we need to double-check for accuracy. “Opinions should be formed with great caution — and changed with greater” (Josh Billings). It’s easier to verify the truthfulness of our ideas and principles than it is to rebuild what we’ve destroyed by acting on false information that we carelessly accepted.

We need to exercise caution in our relationships. Of all the damage that carelessness can do, none is more heartbreaking than the damage we do to other people. To a greater or lesser extent, everything we do impinges on someone else, and it’s not sufficient, when we’ve hurt someone, to brush the incident aside with a simple, “I just wasn’t thinking.” That’s the whole point, isn’t it? We should have been thinking. We owe it to those around us to use caution in our conduct.

When we’ve been careless, we can’t expect the laws of the universe to rescue us. Those laws operate with a terrible predictability: the crop that we reap will always be the same one we sowed. If we sow incautiously, it’s foolish (and also a bit arrogant) to expect the “law of the farm” to be set aside just for us, as if we could make poor choices and still get the results that would have come from better ones. And in the real world, poor choices can be disastrous, not only for us but also for those who are affected by our actions. It pays to be careful.

“The sower may mistake and sow his peas crookedly: the peas make no mistake, but come up and show his line” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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