Thursday, January 7, 2016

Reflections on Core Values - Day 5 - follow-through

Follow through for me has a lot to do with acting responsibly.  That includes doing those things that are necessary even though they are not pleasant or fun or easy. 

Let’s face reality, if it is fun or easy, pleasurable or enjoyable we really go not need great motivation to “follow through”.

  • If it is a job or chore we love it is easy to dedicate the time to doing it.
  • If it is a relationship with someone we get along with easily, we don’t need motivation to spend time with that person.

The real test to character comes when it is something unpleasant that needs doing.  This tests our value of how important follow though is in our lives.

There are so many mundane things that need to be seen too that are a part of survival.  Fundamentals like food and shelter need to be seen too whether they are fun or not.  So  much of our life energy is devoted to these areas, we follow through in these areas because to not follow through has a negative consequence, no food, no shelter. 

When we take on family obligations we now extend those responsibilities to our offspring and now we have a duty to see them cared for as well.  This extends then to their wellbeing, their education, and tending to them gaining their own independence. 

Part of this journey is teaching them the responsibility of “follow through”.  As parents we give them “chores” (which they hate) to teach them this lesson.  They fight and struggle and come up with all kinds of reasons to not “follow through”, they resent us for teaching them this lesson (we are the mean ones) and yet we follow through on teaching those lessons that it is a parents responsibility to learn because we feel a responsibility / obligation to give our offspring a realistic and value filled start toward independence.  And surely there are many obligations that come with parenthood that we “follow through” on even though they are not pleasant.

At the same time as we build our separate family we have responsibility and obligations to our own now elderly parents.  Parents we don’t always understand, or who we have differences of opinion with.  And yet we find ways to fulfill our responsibility and follow through on the “honour and respect” part that relationship even through the challenges. 

In maturing we come to realize that “follow through” is not always about what is pleasant or enjoyable but rather about what is right and honourable.  Sometimes we follow through with teeth gritted in determination, we stop our feet from running in the opposite direction, we put on a grin and we bear it!  Why?  Because we value the virtue of “follow through”.

As I sit here and ponder the times in my life when I have done the right thing in spite of my “feelings” I realize that I have a strong sense of “follow through”.  I really believe firmly that our character is determined by how we follow through when the act of doing what is right is not as pleasant as doing something we “want” to do.  Sure there were times I wanted to run away and do something more fun or pleasant.  But I did not because I felt responsible to my obligations to “follow through”.

So what is my concern?  I am concerned that not everyone sees this steady determination to follow through as a virtue anymore.   We are admonished so often to “if it doesn’t feel good do something else” or “if the relationship isn’t comfortable, abandon it and move on”. 

  • In pursuit of the “feel good” are we learning to abdicate responsibility?  
  • Has follow through become something we only do as long as it is pleasant? 
  • Instead of doing what it right have choices come down to doing what feels good?

My long term concern is where does this attitude lead us in our social or cultural stability?  We already see countless relationships ending because they don’t feel good. 

We see abandonment in all kinds of social situations, from divorce, to absentee parents, to elder neglect.  

We see the sick and the needy abandoned.  We see the frail and disabled left alone. 

Why?  Because it does not feel good to follow through on our responsibility to care for others even when it does not feel good.

Doing what is right comes with the obligation of doing what does not feel good.
The desire to do what does not feel good comes from a sense of responsibility to follow through.

How do we re-integrate this virtue or value to a society that has grown accustomed to desire and want only the “feel good”?

Renate Dundys Marrello
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