Today I would like to invite you to ponder the complex matter of making a decision. We all make decisions every day. Some of them easy decisions, some of them hard decisions. Some of them with fairly benign end results, some of them life-changing in their outcome.
Recently I read a letter written by an elderly woman to her adult children. The letter was her way of indicating to her children her wishes in regards to the future of her land once she was gone. And, it also identified her top priorities and how those priorities impacted the wishes she had for her land. She loved the land. She had grown up on it. It had been in her family for two generations. She would love to see her children keep the land after she was gone.
But, she was wise and recognized that the chances that her children would actually WANT to keep the land was somewhat remote. They didn’t have near the sentimental attachment to the land as she. And so, because she recognized this, she stated that, should her children not wish to retain the land, she was also at peace with the idea of them selling it. After all, she reflected, her top priority was not that the land be preserved, but rather the preservation of family harmony. That was her top priority. And, because of that, she reasoned that leaving the decision to sell the land open-ended, a decision the children could make when the time came, she concluded that was the best path to family harmony.
Can you see where I’m going with this? This letter that I read did not specify how many children this woman actually had, but because she did reference “children” and not simply “a child”, that would lead me to believe there are at least two. I’m guessing more.
I have to tell on my daughter, Harper, for a moment here. Harper is a great girl. Twelve and a half years old. On the rare occasion I take Harper to the store and tell her she can “pick something out – her choice”, you never saw someone agonize so much. Harper is a microcosm of human nature. In the face of options, she is at odds with just HERSELF.
We humans are like this. We are conflicted, even just in our own minds. Not all the time, granted, but on occasion, we are not sure which decision to make, and thus an internal battle ensues.
Why would we think that two people faced with one huge decision, that involves one of the most contentious subject matters – money – why would we think that two people could come to a conclusion without some sort of conflict, tension, or feelings of ill-will? If we face that battle in our own hearts, with our own selves, why do we think we won’t face those same battles, or worse ones, if we add another human to that decision-making process?
Maybe you think that sounds cynical. I think it sounds like an acknowledgement of human nature. We all have one, and somewhere, sometime, it will prove itself to be selfish and self-serving.
The best way to tame that beast is hem it in. And, the best way for the mother to hem in that argument over the future of her land that will ensue once she passes away, the best way for her to hem in that argument is to make the decision herself. It may sound counter-intuitive, but that’s because our human nature, in its selfishness, wants the power to make the decision. But, the only real way to ensure family harmony is to take the potential for conflict away, and that means the mother has to make the decision about the land, and reflect it in a legally binding document.
We cherish the freedom to make decisions for ourselves. But, we need to also recognize that wrapped up in that freedom is a self-serving beast that needs to be tamed. And, there is nothing wrong with recognizing that, and doing something about it.
On a ponderous note.