“Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
— Edmund Burke
Last month, I wrote that it is damaging to people and society when standards are lowered. It is far better to put more effort into helping people meet the standards than it is to lower the standards in the name of misguided compassion.
One of our natural human tendencies is the tendency to slack off, to lower standards in our own lives and in society. It is unhealthy to individuals and the nation.
Tom Brady’s continued excellence at the highest levels of professional football, long past an age where others have declined and retired, demonstrates that with will and determination, excellence in a demanding game can be maintained. For Brady, it has meant taking the road less traveled. It has meant training differently and preparing at a higher level than his peers. The same is true in life.
We can tend to lose focus, energy, and discipline over time. In order to maintain excellence in nearly any area of life requires a regular renewal of all three of these things. As Tom Brady demonstrates, it is possible if one puts forth the right effort in the right way.
We are all on the field of life
We may not all play football, but we are all on the field of life. We all want to live rewarding, fulfilling lives of love, generosity, achievement, and satisfaction. However, accomplishing this is not automatic for anyone. It requires effort and a good life plan. It requires that we prepare to perform well on the field of life. We may have to be almost as focused about life as Tom Brady is about football. To be successful in life, we have to choose higher standards.
As motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “Don’t follow the easy crowd.”
If you do what everyone else is doing you will get what everyone else is getting.
• For example, no matter how rich a person is, they cannot eat anything they want and still stay slim. To be healthy enough to enjoy life, requires some kind of a plan about diet and fitness, even if it’s just some general habits kept in mind (written is better, of course).
• Young people, especially, are vulnerable to peer pressure and the desire to be accepted. However, trying to be popular on social media and keep up with ever-changing popular culture is an exercise in futility and will probably not make one a more interesting person.
• A successful marriage requires being faithful to your spouse, and treating your spouse with love and respect, and considering their needs equally with your own.
• It should probably go without saying, but not doing drugs, staying out of jail, and having a job are also prerequisites for success in life.
• Being a successful employee means respecting your boss, even if you don’t always like their decisions.
• Every off-season, Tom Brady works to improve an area of weakness in his game. Advancing in a job or career will likely mean taking classes and other steps to improve skills, both technical and interpersonal.
• You also probably won’t get very far in your career or your social life if you don’t control your anger, if you use a lot of profanity, drink too much, or have poor grooming habits.
• You probably won’t be a successful parent if you don’t spend time with your children, seek to understand them, nurture them, and guide them in healthy, positive directions.
In other words, like Tom Brady’s success in football, success in life takes a commitment to personal excellence.
American freedom was not meant to be a “do whatever” freedom. True American freedom is about having the freedom to work, build, and create, to leave a lasting legacy. It was designed to be a freedom to excel and contribute, not to live a wasteful life. Our technological advancements present opportunities, but dangers and pitfalls as well, making it more important than ever that we commit ourselves to high standards.
Real compassion for others, of course, does not mean helping them to make choices that will cause them harm. People may make poor choices, but a compassionate society will not enable those choices by making them easy.
Real compassion will mean making it harder for people to make choices that will harm themselves and others. Real compassion for people means upholding standards in education, law, religion, the professions, and the military. That is our compassionate obligation to those around us, to those who depend on us.
High standards means freedom, too
People who are committed to high personal standards are also likely to be people who are determined to live as free people. People who have high personal standards will be freer of the passions which forge “fetters” of their own making. They will be the kind of people who make a nation of free people possible.
The trend in America since the 1960s has been to lower standards, not raise them. Perhaps its time to move in the other direction. For our own sakes, and for the sake of the future of freedom, let’s work to raise the bar and maintain the standards that help bring success in life and freedom to the nation. Next time someone demands that a standard be lowered, maybe we should just say no. HVN
Photo by Brad Muckenthaler