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No matter what you do, no matter what precautions you take, you could always be a little safer. In fact, we seem to live in a culture that values safety above nearly everything else. It is practically our obsession…

There is an old adage that goes, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

I love this saying in part because it elegantly violates the “rule”—fabricated by eighteenth-century schoolmarms—about ending a sentence with a preposition. More importantly, however, it speaks to the necessity of risk in the adventure of human life.

When you think about it, there is really no limit to “safety.” No matter what you do, no matter what precautions you take, you could always be a little safer. In fact, we seem to live in a culture that values safety above nearly everything else. It is practically our obsession.

I recently purchased a toaster that came with warnings about the risk of injury and even death associated with the toasting of bread! Perhaps we should all just play it safe and eat our bread raw.

I should stipulate here that I am not at all opposed to safety and reasonable precautions. Putting on a seatbelt when driving a car poses the slightest of impositions while significantly improving your chances of surviving an accident. So buckle up.

However, most of our greatest accomplishments and many of our happiest moments come when we venture some risk. Ask any young man who has ever asked a young woman to marry him and received a “yes.” In fact, I might go so far as to suggest that you cannot really live a meaningful and fulfilling life—a good life in the classical sense—without taking some serious risks.

A missionary leaves home to bring the Gospel to a strange and difficult land. A medical researcher devotes years and years of her life to devise a treatment that may or may not work. An athlete pushes his body to its very limit to go faster or higher or farther than anyone before. Every endeavor worth pursuing comes with some risk.

To avoid risk is to avoid really living. Of course, risk can be scary. If it wasn’t scary, it wouldn’t be a risk. But we can, indeed we must, push past the fear. Even William Shakespeare took the unfathomable risk of ending sentences with prepositions… often.

Take a risk, and change your life. Leave the safe harbor, and see where the voyage takes you. That is what you were built for.

Republished with gracious permission from The Saint Constantine School (2017).

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3 replies to this post
  1. I think we have a very good example in the USA happening right now. The nuclear power industry has obsessed with safety following the accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant. The nuclear power industry took extensive measures to complicate their processes. It has taken a few decades but several plants are already closed and multiple units are now too expensive to operate and scheduled for closure. My point is that some safety measures are appropriate but the result in this example is the loss of a valuable resource.

  2. When I think of safety, my thoughts go to something of absolute trust like the childlike security experienced when lived with a father. A mother’s love, yes, but the strength of a father is somewhat beyond words. My father was far from perfect, drank his paycheck, but always came home to his family. No matter what the hardships were, we hung together, in safety with each other.

    My dictionary says that safety is “freedom”, freedom from the occurence or risk of injury or loss. There can be no other freedom than the safety of the freedom of life lived through the gospel of the Son begotten from the Father before all worlds.

  3. One of my several specialties in the USAF was as a Flight Safety Officer. The mantra of Flight Safety is, “Safety is paramount.” I always added, “…up to, but excluding an on time takeoff.” Never went over well with those in power, always understood by those at the controls. Numerous other examples, but I get it. Too bad the ‘safety mindset’ has morphed into a ‘security blanket.’

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