The Sour-Faced Man

There are two things that I want you to make up your minds to: first, that you are going to have a good time as long as you live – I have no use for the sour-faced man – and next, that you are going to do something worthwhile, that you are going to work hard and do the things you set out to do.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt, Talk to schoolchildren in Oyster Bay, Christmastime 1898

My eldest son turned six recently and I daresay that raising boys is one of the greatest privileges on earth. While I am sure that bringing up daughters offers a similar sense of honor, I can only speak from the experience I’ve had with my two young sons. Childhood is a time of learning, on the one hand, where exogenous facts, figures, influences and the like are pasted on from the outside and a time of growing radiance on the other, where internal, pre-existing compulsions and proclivities find expression in relation to the world round about.

One of the many responsibilities which devolves upon any parent upon the birth of a child is the need to provide years of guidance, education, training and protection. Children are not born wholly formed as you know, in fact, they arrive in a vulnerable and malleable state with a soul or a unique configuration of life animating them from day one. Education, therefore, is as much of a process of “pouring in” as it is “drawing forth.”

Plato once quipped that: “The most important part of education is in the nursery.” The nest of home is padded with parental values and expectations and held together by quality of atmosphere generated as a result of how the parents carry themselves individually and together. The home is either a nest of love or a nest of mixed, erratic and confusing signals at any given point in time and the consistency of the expression of love is the foundation upon which the precious sense of security and self-confidence is built in a child.

The funny thing about love is that it operates on the basis of an on-off switch. You are either acting in love, functioning in a manner consistent with its nature, or not. There is no in-between. Most people allow quite a mixture in their expression, where love motivates some or most of the time, but they give in to less noble spirits on occasion, usually when they are under pressure. I say “allow” because the choice as to what motivates you, as to the centering of your orientation is yours. Children must learn this. If they don’t, they will be forever blaming others for their shortcomings.

Life can and should be enjoyed. If you find yourself embittered, encumbered or depressed, you are wise to ask yourself what lies in the center of your concern. What has your deepest attention? Fears, wants, lacks and the like or love? Most of the time when people are down and out they have allowed – deliberately or not – the centering of their concern to shift from its rightful place to somewhere, something, someone else. More often than not such feelings come in relation to loss or lack, but caveat emptor, investing too heavily into such feelings can imbalance your portfolio and lead quickly to emotional bankruptcy if you are not careful.

Are we supposed to feel? Yes! Absolutely! Are we only feeling, sentient beings with no logic or reason, no system of checks and balances? Absolutely not! You have a heart and a mind and both must work together, in agreement, with a singularity of purpose if you are to be effective and consistent in the living of life. Some people claim to be more feeling than thinking, while others claim the opposite and I have no doubt that there is a spectrum upon which people naturally exist, but the fact is that every single person on earth is privileged to have both heart and mind at their command.

Of course people with severe mental disabilities or who have suffered traumatic experiences that have altered the landscape of their emotional realm to the point that they do not have the capacity to function within the band of what is considered “normal” function may not be able to put their original equipment to good use and in even rarer cases the original equipment is defective, but the point is that the overwhelming majority of people have a potentially properly functioning mind and heart. Like any mechanical piece of equipment, your mind and heart must be fed properly, used properly and well maintained to ensure correct function.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, but such an experience will not come served up on a silver platter. You must do the work to discover your purpose. You must work hard to overcome the gravity of mediocrity that weighs heavily upon the human condition. You must apply yourself humbly, be willing to make corrections at every turn and stand up for what you know to be right, to be true at all cost.

Those who do, overcome. Those who don’t sit sour-faced on the sidelines, jeering at those on the playing field, crippled by jealousy, self-pity and complaint.

The choice, my friends, is yours!


7 thoughts on “The Sour-Faced Man

  1. Colin

    This is a great expanding of the Teddy Roosevelt quote from the beginning. Ultimately, I believe the two things that Roosevelt encouraged are somewhat entwined. You can be an achiever, but you will only ever get so far as the sour-faced man. Conversely, you can be a happy person, but how long can it last when you realize that you never do what you set out to do? Thanks for a great topic today.


  2. Lady Leo

    The ultimate of all the gifts we’ve been given is choice. What we choose is who we become.
    Woderful post. Pleasant weekend to all.


  3. Brad

    Powerful picture you chose to go along with a great quote.
    Thanks for the reminder of the impact I have as a father.

    My wife and I were speaking last night about the value of acknowledgement for children. I asked her what impact she thought acknowledgement has on children…she said the potential added value for a child is cannot be measured, it provides a clear path of direction that says you’re headed in the right direction – keep going.
    Our words and actions have a massive impact on our children, so why not show them a love for life and other people.


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