Viewer Discretion is Advised

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Rather than complain about the insufficiencies and fallibilities of government I prefer instead to focus my inquiry this morning on the nature of individual responsibility in relation to control.

Yesterday we considered the matter of self-control, particularly as it relates to emergency situations. While handling crises well is an important skill to develop, the greater need is to find the ways to inform the discretion of men and women in times of prosperity and relative calm.

There is a mountain of difference between self-control and the all-too-familiar “control freak.” He who is composed maintains his balance and his temper, no matter what is happening around him. Composure requires a sense of reserve and constraint balanced with a willingness to act swiftly and decisively when the time is right. The control freak, however, knows no bounds in his attempts to establish order around him, according to his terms.

Morning Glory, Image by Wikipedia

Wisdom, that uncommon often elusive sense, comes not from the frantic application of control. It is not the by-product of book smarts nor is it simply an accumulation of street smarts built from experience. Wisdom unfolds like the petals of the Morning Glory whenever humility in spirit is coupled with decent boldness in action.

Whenever rules, bureaucracy or any other system is used to impose control where control is found lacking, beware. Such an approach is never sustainable. The new controls not only take on a life of their own, they inevitably overreach their bounds while discouraging the development of discretion in that which is being controlled. The same principle works with raising children as it does with running a company or governing a nation.

In any situation where you find a lack of control, you are wise to invest in the reinforcement of the participants before imposing new rules. New rules and bigger government – any external controls – are rarely, if ever preferable to discretion on the part of the individual.

How you inform the discretion of those in your sphere of influence is perhaps the basis for tomorrow’s consideration. Your approach, as you can imagine and have no doubt experienced, has a tremendous influence on whether or not your ideas are received and put into practice.

I wish you a wonderful day and encourage your to resist the temptation to impose arbitrary controls on the chaos in your world. Seek, instead, to educate, inform, uplift and fortify so that the lowest common denominator is raised.

9 thoughts on “Viewer Discretion is Advised

  1. Lady Leo

    The development of discretion is another way of saying developing wisdom. As a parent this is the most crucial part of character to assist a child in developing. I’ve never met a child with adult wisdom, but I have seen children of all ages in the process of developing it. You could see they were grasping some of the basics and putting them to use in their own sandbox size experience. Things such as:
    1. kindness
    2. appreciation
    3. forgiveness

    These are the root traits of trust worthy teens whose parents will enjoy raising them. They can be focused on teaching them the art of discretion rather then having to use arbitrary control. But I will add; we don’t do kids any favor if they are treated like someone who has developed this if in fact they haven’t.
    Great subject with no easy answer. In my experience many adults have not developed the sandbox level skill so some rules become a necessity. But I love your suggestion to educate, inform, uplift and fortify it a perfect medium to allow wisdom grow in all of us.


  2. “Composure requires a sense of reserve and constraint balanced with a willingness to act swiftly and decisively when the time is right.”

    What you are describing here is a sense of poise, and I agree that it is vital to maintaining one’s equilibrium when faced with new information, and then being able to integrate that information harmoniously into your life.

    Poise requires a sense of clear psychic boundaries beyond which the outer world cannot penetrate without being filtered and assessed. It is not meant to be an unbreachable defence, but rather a system of mental gateways and channels through which you can direct potentially disruptive influences to reduce risk of harm.

    It’s easiest to acquire when developed naturally over time, from childhood onwards through a stable but encouraging family life, but I think it is also a skill that can be learnt later in life from a patient teacher.


  3. Joshua

    I have often appreciated the stance of an educator in a given field, as when that is the case, I find that more often than not I am learning more than what is being instructed.
    Thanks for going deeper on the matter of control, I am eager to get to the heart of the matter, and see that lowest common denominator raised!
    Wrapping those in our world in the chords of Love, that their expression may unfold as perfectly as the morning glory’s pedals.
    Thanks Gregg, I’m with you!


  4. Brad

    Some time ago my wife instigated the “rule of two’s” with our young children. “hmmm”, I thought, “let’s see how this works out”. the idea is that no more than 2 toys out at a time to help promote a sense of simplicity and focused attention. wouldn’t you know it, the kids love it and encourage each other to follow along – they are delighted to “clean up” 1 in exchange of pulling another out to play.
    The Rule of 2’s acts as a guideline for them, helps them stay focused on 1 or 2 things rather than a chaos of choices, they tend to play together with the 1 or 2 toys, the creativity with the ones they choose is amazing to watch, and makes the whole clean up process at the end of the day sooo much easier.
    where i may have tended to let them be and then try to force order on top of chaos at the end of the day, she simply initiated a concept and the kids took to appreciatively.
    amazing what can be creatively achieved with the right approach!


  5. Isabelle Kearney

    I’ve noticed a few reasons people try to establish arbitrary control: an unwillingness to trust others, a fear of not being in control themselves or an unwillingness to take the time to “educate, inform, uplift and fortify.” I appreciated your balanced view on the importance of discretion in yourself and how to inspire that in others.


  6. Colin

    I think that we are seeing the results of this in the current state of politics in the world. We see systems that try to legislate good behavior, but they really only allow people to take less responsibility for their actions. It really just creates a downward spiral where the necessity of self control seems less important (especially for the generation growing up). Unfortunately, legislative control is not absolute, so when people can’t control themselves, it seems more legislation is needed, and it keeps going downhill from there. The only way to cut this gordian knot is to make self control an integral part of primary education. But for those that missed this when they were growing up, this blog is a great place to learn it. Thanks!


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