A little girl commented, “Dad you seem to know which people are big-hearted, good-hearted, and even those who have a heart of gold. How can I know?” His answer, “Just listen to what they say.”
It is true. From the abundance of the heart, we speak.
While the words big, good, and gold are subject to the foibles of semantics, the ‘ould words are definitive in their usage and meaning. When we hear them, a judgment is being made. The words are: Could, Should, and Would.
In fact, there are three degrees of judgment:
- Of Others
- Of Ourselves
- Of Providence
Human nature loves to find the faults in others. If we think our discomfort is caused by another person, then our response becomes, almost, a religious experience. Magically, we are shrouded with the belief that, somehow, we are absolved from any responsibility for the situation. So, when the ‘ould words are used in judgment of what someone else could, should, and would do, I think of the adage, “We get what we allow.”
Less egregious, although just as damaging, is when the ‘ould words are used by us against ourselves. As Pogo acknowledged, “I have seen the enemy and he is us.” In combination with “I could have …”, “I should have …”, and “I would have …”, listen for how many times the individual saying those things, also utters the little word “Try”.
While the four-letter word “Can’t” is clear in communicating inaction, the three-letter word “Try” is sinister. At best it is misdirection and at worst it is manipulative.
As proof to this premise, do this exercise with me. Take a pen into your hand. Now, stretch your arm straight out, parallel with the floor, and “try” to drop the pen. One of two things will happen: You will either hold onto the pen — or, you will drop it. No try to it. It is a matter of will. You either don’t — or, you do.
The final — and, only legitimate — usage of the ‘ould words is when we’re communicating the contrast of our frailties to the mysteries of Providence.
For example, this is a favorite explanation of Commitment:
Until one is committed
There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
There is one elementary truth,
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas
And splendid plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
Then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one
That would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision
Raising in one’s favor all manner
Of unforeseen incidents and meetings
And material assistance,
Which no person could have dreamt
Would have come their way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
While the temptation is strong to find all the reasons why we couldn’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t do something, there really is no excuse. Ours is not to judge — ours is to do.
My favorite childhood book was The Little Engine That Could. It is a story about optimism and hard work. The underlying theme is of a stranded train that is unable to find an engine willing to take it over a mountain to its destination. Only the little blue engine is willing. While repeating the mantra “I think I can, I think I can …”, it overcomes a seemingly impossible task.
Whether we think we can’t — or, think we can — that is what we will do.
All We Do Begins With A Thought.