Yesterday was the 4th of July, which, for those of you who aren’t from the U.S., was the day we declared our independence from England 240 years ago. Our Declaration of Independence is one of those historical documents you learn about repeatedly in school but probably never dissected or deeply understood. That was the case for me, anyway.
Until yesterday, that is, when I decided to give it the close read it deserves. Luckily, the primary author, Thomas Jefferson, was an excellent writer and a wise man. He slipped a few phrases in there that show the real depth of his understanding of what humans need and how they operate. The one that stood out to me the most was this:
“. . . all experience hath shown [actually, he wrote ‘shewn’], that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”
Simply put, as long as we can tolerate it, humans are more inclined to suffer than to fix things by ending a situation we’ve gotten used to.
I’m sure you can think of many examples of this truth – from bad smells to bad relationships.
Usually, the impetus to “abolish a form to which we are accustomed” is that the evils are no longer sufferable. That is, it’s gotten so bad we simply can’t endure it anymore. Until then, we anticipate that abolishing or changing the situation is going to be more difficult or uncomfortable than continuing to tolerate something that undermines our peace and happiness.
Finally, we call someone up who figures out where the smell is coming from, cuts a hole in the wall, removes the dead rat, and patches the wall. And when they leave we say, “I wish I had done that a long time ago.”
So, here’s the thing. Whether or not you think the United States is better off independent of the Kingdom of England, I want to encourage you to think a little about independence.
Not that “I have to do it all by myself and I want sole credit” brand of independence which pushes us apart. I mean the independence to act on behalf of your soul – and your Life, your Liberty, and your Pursuit of Happiness – regardless of the “forms to which you are accustomed.” But you don’t need to justify your action by waiting until the “evils” can no longer be suffered.
You can act NOW.
Dr. Peter Borten