“All due respect, you got no f—–g idea what it’s like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other f—–g thing. It’s too much to deal with almost. And in the end you’re completely alone with it all.” — Tony Soprano, The Sopranos
Being a seeker of truth has its costs.
[Follow me down a bit of a rabbit trail because I am going to be tying together personal responsibility, corporate leadership, and ultimately the call to seek and live the truth.]
We are all the masters of our own fate, the captains of our own ships. Though we will all have respective advantages and disadvantages, though there will be many who will help us or hurt us, who will guide us or mislead us, we are ultimately responsible for the way our lives end up. The decisions we ultimately make are ours and ours alone.
But not everyone will step up to the plate of responsibility. Most choose not to think about it. I don’t blame them.
For those that do, however, the decisions they make will affect others, and depending on the nature of their calling, they may be asked to step more frequently than others into leadership roles, ultimately multiplying the complexity of the decisions they are asked to make. They will have advisors, no doubt. But the final decision lies with them.
“When I agreed to run for this office, I thought that I understood this job…I mean I was right beside my brother David when he had to make impossible decisions, you know times when he had to choose between bad options, but, now that I’m the one sitting in that chair, I’m starting to wonder if I’m the right person to lead this country.” — President Wayne Palmer, 24, “Day 6: 6:00am – 7:00am”
Let’s add an element of complexity. Imagine, as one of these people, you are placed in a position to steward the secrets of multiple individuals, possibly multiple organizations,(say as a priest, a king, or an ambassador). Maybe these individuals know one another. Maybe you need to be on the lookout for potential conflicts of interest. Maybe you will be asked to juggle the best interests of the organization you represent, the constituency you serve, and yourself and your family.
Let’s add some more. Say through one way or another, you have been entrusted with knowledge of the future. Say you have an insight and an understanding of the relationships between different trends and events, and you are tasked with making a judgment call with what to do with the information. Now what?
Can you imagine how many more factors there are, how infinitely complex this can get?
In my own life, with the small amount I have been asked to steward, I find it difficult enough to find people that can relate to or understand me.
As a seeker of truth, I am simply not content to leave decisions that affect me and those that I love up to people I do not necessarily know or trust (like, say, potentially corrupt politicians). I know that it is my responsibility to do my part — even if that means simply educating myself and being an example to those around me.
However, this lifestyle isn’t necessarily optimal, according to one of the wisest men who have ever lived:
I, the Preacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I set my mind to seek and explore by wisdom concerning all that has been done under heaven. It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.
I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.” And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain. — King Solomon, Ecclesiastes 1:12-18
Instead, Solomon would go on to suggest that the best thing we can do with our lives is eat good food and spend time with the people we love. For everything is vanity.
Yet many of us will be compelled to do it anwyay.
This above all- to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3
There are many of us, who will never be able to escape it. No matter how hard it is, no matter how painful it gets, we will seek the truth, and we will find it.
I’ve tried my entire life to minimize responsibility, to mind my own business and simply enjoy my life. But as fate would have it, that was an impossibility for me. I was never happy in a regular job, doing regular things, hanging out with regular people.
I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that we don’t have free will — but I believe within the scope of personal agreement, many of us are asked to make personal sacrifices that will impact the greater good.
Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,
For they will drink and forget what is decreed,
And pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
— Proverbs 31: 2-5
If we are called to live a long time, it might mean we don’t have the choice to eat unhealthy food or indulge in too much drinking. If we are called to be parents, it might mean we will need to be wise with our money in order to feed our family. If we are called to be in the public eye, it might mean we need to be smart with who we appear in public with, whether there is any funny business going on or not.
In the end, you gotta wonder if it’s worth it. I ask myself that question almost every day. The truth is, I don’t really know.
What I do know is that it is impossible for me to live any other way.
If this sounds like you, you know all too well how easy it is to get caught up in the negative things that we see that others cannot or will not. But remember, there is a difference between the facts and the truth.
A final piece of closing advice from the Apostle Paul:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
— Letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4, Verse 8