The Illusion of Safety: Strengthening Kids for the Modern World
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
There once was a woman named Helen
With quotes so profound they're worth yellin'
Her last name was Keller and I'm here to tell ya
That this quote right here is quite tellin'
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it... Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure... Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing." -Helen "What's Your Excuse?" Keller
Thems bold words from a blind and deaf woman born in 1880s rural Alabama. She also went on to earn a college degree, write 14 books, and was an outspoken social activist, so she might know what she is talking about.
Why Safety Is an Illusion
So what the heck is our dear friend Helen talking about exactly? Well, we all like to walk around the world feeling all cozy inside that we are safe and secure, and don't get me wrong, that is a GOOD thing. We humans could not function properly or effectively if we didn't have some semblance of safety in our day-to-day lives.
However, the truth is that at any moment a meteor could come crashing into your house and blow you to smithereens, a bear could break down your door and eat you alive, or a global pandemic could go sweeping across the planet forcing billions to lock themselves in their homes, wreaking havoc on economies worldwide, and sending countless numbers to the hospital and beyond (does that last one sound familiar?)
"Hello, sir. I'm here to eat you."
We all want safety and security for our kids in life so they can thrive out in the real world. But I am seeing lots of parents and schools take it too far, and they are actually hindering the very thrivingness (might have just made that word up) we want so badly for our kids.
Ask for A Strong Back
Another quote that I really like is from Phillips Brooks, another human quote machine from the 1800s. He said, "I do not pray for a lighter load, but for a stronger back." Now, that's wisdom. Schools nowadays are starting to become overly obsessed with creating "safe spaces" for students to the point where it is becoming problematic.
I was recently participating in a school-sponsored discussion about race relations where a person offering some opposing views was abruptly cut off and silenced by the moderator for the sake of creating a "safe space" for the students to share. I was stunned. How are these kids going to face people that hold differing opinions from them out in the real world beyond their "safe spaces"? Will they break down? Will they run away?
The fact of the matter is that as much as we want to keep our kids safe, the task is impossible. There will always be conflict. There will always be a threat. Remember security is mostly a superstition.
And creating overly protective environments that try to eliminate any sort of discomfort is not only impossible, but is robbing these kids of the very traits and experiences they need to be able to meet conflicts and threats responsibly and with character. Do not pray for a lighter load. Pray for a stronger back.
Again, setting up an environment where people feel safe is a GOOD thing. People, especially young ones, can only grow and develop in emotionally healthy ways if they feel safe. But creating a safe environment does not mean eliminating every possible danger and discomfort that exists so kids will not have to face them.
Creating a safe environment means setting up a place where kids can share their authentic selves without fear of judgement or censorship. A place where they can learn to deal with conflict and resolve issues in mature ways rather than trying to hide from them. When we set up safe environments like this, we build people of character; we build a generation of humans that are ready to face whatever challenges the world has in store for them and carry the world in their arms.