QUESTION: I've always thought a man should be willing to work and sacrifice to reach his goals. I've heard you say "cool the passion and postpone the dream." That isn't the way I was taught.
JAMES DOBSON: There's nothing wrong with having a passion and a dream. They should, however, be kept in balance with other valuable components of your life -- your family and your relationship with God being chief among them.
Let me illustrate that need to keep the various components of our lives in perspective. I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a man whose goal in life was to produce lemons of record-breaking size from the tree in his back yard. He came up with a formula to do just that. He fertilized the tree with ashes from the fireplace, some rabbit and goat manure, a few rusty nails and plenty of water.
That spring, the scrawny little tree produced two gigantic lemons, one weighing more than 5 pounds. But every other lemon on the tree was shriveled and misshapen. The man is still working on his formula.
Isn't that the way it is in life? Great investments in a particular endeavor tend to rob others of their potential. I'd rather have a tree covered with juicy lemons than a record-breaking but freakish crop, wouldn't you? Balance is the word. It is the key to successful living -- and parenting.
Husbands and wives who fill their lives with a never-ending volume of work are too exhausted to take walks together, to share their deeper feelings, to understand and meet each other's needs. This breathless pace predominates in millions of households, leaving every member of the family frazzled and irritable. Husbands are moonlighting to bring home more money. Wives are on their own busy career track. Their children are often ignored, and life goes speeding by in a deadly routine. Even some grandparents are too busy to keep the grandkids. I see this kind of overcommitment as the quickest route to the destruction of the family. And there simply must be a better way.
Some friends of mine recently sold their house and moved into a smaller and less expensive place just so they could lower their payments and reduce the hours required in the workplace. That kind of downward mobility is almost unheard of today; it's almost un-American. But when we reach the end of our lives and we look back on the things that mattered most, those precious relationships with people we love will rank at the top of the list.
If friends and family will be a treasure to us then, why not live like we believed it today? That may be the best advice I have ever given anyone -- and the most difficult to implement.
So keep your dream and your passion. Work hard to achieve the success you crave. But don't let it become a 5-pound lemon that destroys the rest of your crop. You'll regret it if you do!
(James Dobson is president of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903; or www.family.org. Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers," published by Tyndale House.)
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