We must develop a long sighted vision for our lives and realize that the price we pay when we choose the shorter longer way is enormous. I would say that the price is crushing.
Using fear, intimidation and power get quick results. We see such tactics being used around us all the time. These are the tactics of tyrants, dictators, and despots. Large countries of millions of people are kept under control this way. Intimidation and instilling fear in others don’t require any particular skill. The more base a person is, the more readily they’ll use these tactics to control others. Why do they use these tactics to control others? For two reasons.
One, they get the quickest results. People have a visceral reaction to fear and intimidation. Most people will immediately comply. If they don’t, usually raising the level of fear and intimidation is all that’s required.
The second reason why these methods are so common is because they require the smallest amount of talent. Even little children learn at a very young age how to intimidate and even terrorize others.
If we’re honest, we’ll probably be able to find moments when we’ve used these tactics, even if we don’t use them on a regular basis. What do you do when your spouse doesn’t want to do what you want? If you get angry, yell or sulk, you’re trying to force them to agree with you. What do you do when your child doesn’t listen? Do you yell at them? Do you threaten them? Do you raise your voice? All of these are tactics to force your child to listen. This is exactly where our children learn how to control others, from the very model we may have become for them. It horrifies us when we see them behaving this way while not noticing that this is precisely how we may behave. In fact, they learned this behavior from us!
I do need to clarify that as parents, we have an obligation to raise our children with a value system. We cannot let them talk disrespectfully or act inappropriately. We must respond when we see them behave this way. The question is only how we do this. The quickest results will always come through forcing them and the smaller they are the better this works. We intimidate, threaten or scare them into doing what we said. In addition, we don’t need to take a parenting course to learn how to do this. It almost seems natural
This is what I call the shorter longer way. This means that in the short run, we get the results we want very quickly. That’s why at first it is the shorter way. However, it evolves into a much longer way. Every time we use force we create a greater distance between us and them. The moment we can no longer force them or they have the ability to get away from us, not only do we have no control over them, we have no influence over them either. They have no loyalty to us, to say the least. Citizens of a country led by a dictator will use their first opportunity to get out of the country or bring down the regime. This explains a large part of teenage rebelliousness.
Here’s a simple equation to help you remember this. Externally stimulated obedience equals internally stimulated fury. We feel deeply violated when we are forced to do things. We are being stripped of our human dignity. Even G-d doesn’t force us. He gives us free choice.
This is the reason why we must approach everything in life using the longer shorter path. This is always the path which requires more effort up front and far greater benefit down the road. It’s like a financial investment. The market has demonstrated that whenever someone invests long term they will always make money. Whenever we are investing short term the risk is much higher. When it comes to our relationships, this means taking the time to get our spouse to see our point of view. When it comes to our children it means lovingly insisting what must be done, not angrily doing so.
If this is true, why don’t most people do this? Why do we commonly turn to the easiest way and the quickest result? The reason isn’t very deep. We have a human tendency to look for the easy way out. It’s that simple. We live in an age that has been coined the “fast food era.” We want it and we want it now. Speed has taken on a very high value. It gives us the feeling that if we get it done quickly, it’s a big success. This is all while knowing that fast food is quite unhealthy. It offers us a quick meal and resolves our immediate need, our hunger. However, long term, it creates many other health issues which can ultimately shorten one’s life. Healthy, nourishing quality food takes time and effort to prepare. It takes longer up front and saves us tremendous suffering down the road.
There’s a story in the Talmud with Rabbi Yehoshua who said: “Once a child got the better of me.” “I was traveling, and I met with a child at a crossroads. I asked him, ‘which way to the city?” and he answered: “This way is short and long, and this way is long and short.”
“I took the ‘short and long’ way. I soon reached the city but found my approach obstructed by gardens and orchards. So I retraced my steps and said to the child: “My son, did you not tell me that this is the short way?’ The child answered: ‘Did I not tell you that it is also long?'”
We can’t afford to take the shorter longer way. We must develop a long sighted vision for our lives and realize that the price we pay when we choose the shorter longer way is enormous. I would say that the price is crushing. Imagine children who are raised by parents and teachers who take the longer shorter way. Parents who ask how I can influence my children instead of forcing them. Teachers who ask how I can get through to this student instead of remaining in control of the student. Marriages where we choose to love our spouse instead of trying to reshape our spouse.
Yes, it requires far more effort up front. We need to learn to slow down, be less reactionary and far more thoughtful. We must stop being instinctive and become far more thoughtful. Then, we actually become a source of influence on those around us instead of alienating those who are closest to us. If we learn to take the longer shorter way we will reduce the biggest heartaches in our lives. This is the true path to world peace.
So ask yourself, through every step of your life, am I choosing the easy way or am I stepping into the longer shorter way?