Lori: Can Common Sense be resurrected?
Fourteen years later, requests to reprint it still arrive in my inbox weekly. The obituary for Common Sense has been published in thousands of publications, eight countries and translated into Spanish, Finnish, Greek and even Icelandic.
Despite this success, I’ve always felt a measure of remorse being the one to nail the coffin shut on Common Sense.
I am often asked if I believe Common Sense is really dead.
I’d like to say that I saw a hint of color return to his face. Or that I witnessed a small puff of air blow from his cheeks.
I almost convince myself that the old sage will rise up and walk — and then I scan the headlines.
This summer 4.5 million Bumbos (popular small cushiony seats that for babies) were recalled because of 20 serious injuries. Twenty out of 4.5 million is .004 percent. The product was not a hazard. The true hazard was that people without common sense were misusing the Bumbo.
When our fifth grandbaby was born this summer, I was at the hospital helping my son-in-law put her in a little sleeper when my daughter said, “Mom, did you know swaddling is no longer practiced?” I was about to say, “If it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Kathryn,” when a nurse, who I didn’t realize had entered the room, said, “Yes, we no long recommend swaddling, as some people swaddle babies too tightly.”
The current recommendation is to place the baby in a crib on her back and put a blanket over the baby, tucking the blanket in on both sides. Never mind that this recommendation contradicts the edict of the last two decades that you never, never, never put a blanket in a crib with a newborn.
Considering the endless parade of people and policies that eschew Common Sense, is it possible to resurrect Common Sense?
Absolutely. With a few strategic chest compressions, it is entirely possible. There are two planes on which we can address restoring common sense; the first has to do with our thinking and the second with our conversation.
The digital age, with its wonders and marvels, has altered the way we think. It has fueled a peculiar sort of narcissism.
I think I’ll post something witty on Facebook . . . Post . . . and now I’ll just sit here and see how many likes I get. What’s that? Thirty seconds and no “likes?” Maybe I’m not as witty as I thought . . . There we go, one, two, three likes!”
“Let me send you this picture – of us – at the wedding. Granted, we’re still at the wedding and the wedding isn’t over and you’re directly across the table from me, but let me send you a picture of the wedding.” Swoosh!
Get the song. Now. Get the updates. Now. Get the score. Now. I’m so mad at you. Now. You offended me. Now. I’m texting! I’m tweeting!
We have been conditioned, like Pavlov’s dogs, to salivate at the inbox chime, the text message beep and the voice-mail trill. We want it all, need it all and are able to get it all – instantaneously.
Immediacy, critical and necessary in some situations, can be a hindrance in others. Many of the binds we find ourselves in could have been averted had we taken time to slow down, step back and think. And here’s one of the most important things we need to think about: actions and consequences.
If only the woman who sued McDonald’s over the hot coffee had thought about the potential consequences of hot coffee between her knees.
If only Prince Harry had thought about the possible consequences of partying naked in a room full of strangers in an age of You Tube and video phones.
Linking actions and consequences is not new. The apostle Paul addressed the principle in his letter to the Galatians. “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he reap.”
A basic like this goes back centuries, but it is somewhat novel today because we have become conditioned to acting first and thinking later. And then, impudent and childish grownups that we are, we want to be protected from the consequences of our own actions. We want others to bear the brunt of our carelessness.
On the home front, parents foolishly shield children from the consequences of their actions and forego teachable moments. Moms and dads don shoulder pads, run interference for the kids and eclipse what could have been valuable life lessons.
A good way to teach a child how to link actions and consequences is by using a syntax structure of, “If . . . then . . . “
If you don’t put your toys away, then you will work with me in the kitchen until dinner time.
If you get into the cupboard/closet/drawer again, then I will slap your hand.
If you go outside of the yard again, then you will have to come inside.
If you come home past curfew, then you will lose the privilege to use the car.
The structure can even work with a spouse. If you are unfaithful to this marriage, then I will hurt you. Just kidding. Sort of.
We learn and mature through the consequences of our actions. We do not learn and we do not mature by being rash, responding before thinking and constantly blaming others.
We need to slow down and carve out time to think. We need to consider how our actions today will reverberate a week from now, a year from now, a decade from now, a generation from now.
Theologian J.I. Packer has defined maturity as a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity. Those four elements are the critical life systems of Common Sense.
You may not have been born with them, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn them.
Lori Borgman’s book, “The Death of Common Sense and Profiles of Those Who Knew Him,” is available at www.loriborgman.com/books or www.amazon.com