I’ve made many mistakes as a parent. And with triplets, every stage had the added burden (x3) to get it right the first time. I also felt pressure just to look like a good parent. I remember walking down the hall of our kids’ elementary school on several occasions to see an array of projects completed by every student in their grade. Or were they?
Many of them obviously were planned and executed by parents. If you’ve not had children, it’s easy to judge that. But when our kids’ three projects looked a little rough by comparison, we too were tempted to assist the next time.
This same scenario plays out on a national scale with every issue, as government takes on the role of parent with the next identity group the child.
While the title suggests a variety of mistakes, here are five examples of the failure of nerve among parents and presidents.
Never learning what creates value
When you inherit what someone else developed over a lifetime, it is important to appreciate the investment. I watched my former denomination get run into the ground by bureaucrats who had no idea of the personal cost to plant, revitalize, or sustain a local church. From inner-city chaos to healthcare, the federal government often lacks vision as well, cutting a pie someone else baked into thinner slices.
Misunderstanding the difference between leadership and management
“Management is doing things right and leadership is doing right things” (Warren Bennis). Some of us must have everything under control. Eventually the failure to risk will shrink things to a more manageable size.
Failure to let people fail
No one likes to fail, but my greatest lessons and growth have come through struggle. I’ve heard this same statement from countless people. When confronted with the pain of others, we often intervene, and sometimes helping helps. But identity politics is one example where leveling the playing field eventually can do harm. What begins as a course correction can become an over-correction. Strength in numbers that shields from hurt can also block the individual benefits of struggle.
A failure of nerve can drive foreign policy. When U.S. citizenship is viewed only as winning the lottery, guilt can skew our response to brokenness around the world. Well-meaning reactions to places like Haiti and Mexico violate principles that enabled our country to develop and thrive. After the earthquake in 2010, Haiti’s farmers suffered from foreign aid flooding the market. Sometimes aid can disable the process of overcoming difficulty. Similarly, rather discussing how many Mexicans should come into the U.S., shouldn’t we be helping Mexico get more U.S. into it?
Failure to help hurting people heal
Good moms and dads don’t react when their kids skin a knee. They may kiss the boo-boo, but they also let their children work through pain by providing a non-anxious presence rather than participating in their anxiety. What should it look like, for example, to provide a non-anxious presence to a second-grade who girl who would rather be a boy?