A few days ago, I was distracted by an infant car seat. Nothing was remarkable about the car seat itself, but what caught my attention were the—I am not exaggerating—six warning stickers that covered it. Who knew a car seat could be so dangerous?
Similarly, a new football season is beginning, with penalties for “big hits” becoming more and more severe. In the college game, players are now being ejected if they “target” an opposing player—whether it is intentionally malicious or not. It seems more likely than ever that football is going to officially become “two-hand touch.” Sarcasm aside, some precautions for player safety are certainly necessary, but at what point do such precautions jeopardize the value of the game itself?
These examples are not lone occurrences. The old adage, “safety first” has never been more stringently adhered to than it is in today’s culture. Society is riddled with instances of motherly paranoia: You have to sign a waiver to do just about anything these days. Workplace safety posters line the walls of businesses. We have insurance for everything; just in case something happens. And we have a government that considers itself responsible for taking care of its citizens from the cradle to the grave (nothing is safe to eat unless the FDA says so; not only the poor, but everyone has a financial safety net; and based on the bailouts of 2008, even businesses are safe from failure). And to think, I used to get annoyed when my mom told me to wear a helmet and put on sunscreen!
The existence of this cultural obsession is clear, but what should we think of it?
As I sat on an airplane a few weeks ago, I realized the possible danger of my situation. I thought: “I am flying in a metal cylinder, thousands of feet off the ground, and all I can do is trust in the ability of the pilots and the proper functioning of this plane for my safety.”
The opportunity to do good and beautiful things will pass us by if we are too timid to take risks or chances.
Not having control is a scary thought. But it is also a realistic and healthy one, because life itself is like flying on a plane. Realistically, we have no idea when something out of our control might change our lives for the better or the worse.
This reality could leave us crippled in fear—too scared to take chances and go out into the world. But is safety really the most important thing in life? Not in the slightest. The opportunity to do good and beautiful things will pass us by if we are too timid to take risks or chances. If you will not be vulnerable enough to love someone wholly, you may never experience the pain of heartbreak, but you will also never experience the joy of committed love. If we never get the chance to fail, we will miss out on valuable opportunities for learning and improvement. If entrepreneurs hadn’t taken risks for the sake of innovation, we would not have cars, computers or electric light. And if, on multiple occasions, Americans hadn’t risked everything to stand up for what they thought was right, we would not be where we are today.
Safety is covetously sought after in today’s culture, but it is overrated. Truth, beauty, goodness, honor, growth and love are far more valuable. Life could be so much fuller if we stop expending such a great deal of effort for the sake of safety. Because as much as we want to control the world and our lives, in the end, we have no choice but to trust in God, the author of all things. Faith in Him beats paranoia any day. Now that, is a safe bet.