I remember when I was a boy and hung on every word my Dad said as though it were an edict from God Himself. If Dad said it worked this way, then that’s how it worked. If he said something really meant something else, then I knew that I knew the real meaning of whatever that something was.
What I didn’t know then that I am only beginning to understand now is what an enormous burden that was for him to carry…for any Dad or Mom or pastor or president or CEO of an oil company whose mishap is dirtying the Gulf. We expect certain people to have the answers we don’t, to know the things about which we are ignorant, to have the wisdom or insight to get us where we are going…or where we think we are going…or where we think we need to be.
Sometimes, they do. Sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes, they just get lucky. Most of the time, they take the information they have and make the best decision they can. That is what the leaders of British Petroleum are doing.
It is also what MacArthur and his team did in the Pacific during World War II. But for all the wisdom and intelligence associated with the American military, there were still costly miscalculations and oversights. For instance, the tiny island of Peleliu, where the Japanese had a strategic airfield, was a point of critical concern to MacArthur. Intelligence suggested the campaign to seize the airfield would last only a couple of days. Instead, the battle for Peleliu lasted more than a month and cost hundreds of Marines their lives.
The Pelelius in life happen because we don’t know everything. Sometimes, what we do know is all wrong.
I am not quite the wizened old sage to whom the people in my world look for wisdom and guidance. But I am not that big-eyed kid anymore either. I do have a few people who listen to what I have to say, who take my advice to heart, who think maybe I know something they don’t. And maybe I do.
Or maybe I don’t.
Now that I am that Dad I used to believe in so much, I realize how very little I really know. I look back over my life, over my time as a father, a leader, and even a pastor (God help us), and I realize that all I ever was able to do was take the information I had, face the future with it, and make the best determination I could.
Sometimes, I was cock-sure I was right, but now know I was dead wrong. Like when I was so certain my daughter was making a mistake falling in love with that wiry kid from a broken home.
“He doesn’t know anything about being a good husband or father. He isn’t fit. He is not right for you.”
I was wrong.
Don’t get me wrong here. This isn’t intended to get parents, preachers, politicians or military leaders to stop making decisions, providing guidance, or lending advice. I just want to make it clear that none of us knows the end from the beginning. Sometimes, what we think is a bad thing isn’t and what we think is a good thing isn’t either. Sometimes, misfortune is really opportunity. Other times, the golden egg the goose laid on your doorstep is a cleverly disguised grenade.
Here is a news flash for you: Being older doesn’t always make you wiser.
Another one: being a Christian doesn’t automatically qualify you for Dear Abby’s column. So wipe that smug look off your face and admit you may be wrong.
I have…for now.
I saw it on some movie somewhere, I guess. A bunch of criminals of some sort and a cop amongst them, going from one to the other, looking for information. Finally, one of them says, “Lookit, copper. Nobody knows nothin’.”
He said a mouthful. Nobody knows nothing. Everybody knows something. A few know a little more, and many know a lot less. None of us knows everything. None of us understands everything we claim to know.
It’s time we admit it.
All that said, maybe I will turn this blog into an advice column. Just reply to this piece with your questions and/or concerns…if you are ready to listen to the advice of a man who knows he may be wrong. Maybe I will call it In(Gene)ious Insights and make a million dollars giving other people advice. I am pretty good at telling you what to do, even if I haven’t a clue what to do with myself.
God bless your day.