“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (Old Proverb).
IT HARDLY SEEMS NECESSARY TO SAY IT, BUT PREVENTING A PROBLEM IS BETTER THAN REPAIRING ONE. Prevention can be difficult and costly, but in truth, it is nowhere near as difficult and costly as repair. Surely, we need to do more prevention and less repair.
I hesitate to recommend prevention, though, because some people overdo it. There is a certain type of person who is so prudent and conservative that the thought of doing anything risky never enters their mind. They are obsessed with the prevention of anything unpleasant. So please understand: in recommending prevention, I don’t want you to be like these overly cautious folks. They know nothing of adventure or joy — and they do very little good in the world.
Rightly defined, however, prevention includes two ingredients.
Patience. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “One moment of patience may prevent disaster; one moment of impatience may ruin a life.” When you think about it, it’s clear that many damaging things happen because we aren’t patient enough. We rush ahead, ignore the warning signs, and suffer harm that patience would have prevented.
Promptness. Many of the costly mistakes we make are in areas where we put off doing “preventive maintenance.” If you own a house or a car, you know how this works. Because you didn’t promptly tend to that “little problem,” it grew worse and ended up costing a fortune to fix. The big problem could have been prevented by fixing the little one promptly. And so it is with many of our personal problems.
To err is human, and looking back, all of us can see damage that was done because we failed to engage in the work of prevention. But that is not cause for despair. Indeed, there is some hope in it. If it weren’t for the mistakes we’ve made — and the painful consequences that got our attention — we would likely have made more serious mistakes later on. The “live and learn” maxim is based on the fact that making one mistake can prevent the making of another one. So let’s not be morbid about having failed to prevent certain things from happening. Instead, let’s learn everything we can from our failures. Doing so is the very best way to prevent worse things from happening.
“A stumble may prevent a fall” (Thomas Fuller).