“The hardest decisions in life are not between good and bad or right and wrong, but between two goods or two rights.”
– Joe Andrew
Since before I started writing these articles, I’ve had a document on my Google Drive titled “Article Ideas.” Anytime an idea for an article would enter into my brain, I’d head over to this document and add my idea to it. This would ensure I wouldn’t forget my idea.
The following is an article based on an idea that has been buried inside this document for quite some time. In my opinion, there is no better time than the present to discuss it.
The topic? The bridge collapse at Florida International University in 2018.
There are two very important lessons from this incident.
First, it took two years and millions of dollars to build this bridge, yet it didn’t even last a week. It came crashing down in a matter of seconds. This is no different than with relationships and reputations. They can take years to build, yet they can be destroyed in a matter of moments.
While this is a very important lesson in its own right, it is the second lesson which I believe is extremely apt in our current environment.
One of the theories as to why the bridge collapsed is that there was a design flaw with the bridge.
The architects wanted to design the bridge one way, but the people who were in charge of the traffic patterns told the engineers that they should move a support pillar 11 feet in order to better assist the traffic under the bridge.
So the support pillars were moved. How important can 11 feet be?
Extremely important, as the lack of support in key areas led to the structure collapsing.
This type of situation repeats itself in many different ways.
It is one thing when you have two experts in the same field who have conflicting views, but it is an entirely different thing when you have two experts in different fields who argue.
In the case of the bridge, the architects were focused on the health and safety of the bridge. The traffic people were concerned with ensuring traffic would flow at its optimum possible level.
The traffic people aren’t at fault for trying to make sure the bridge isn’t blocking traffic. That’s their job.
It was incumbent on the decision makers to realize that they should put greater weight in the words of the architects over the suggestions from the traffic department.
As parents, we need to enable our children with the tools to realize that opinions are coming from people with different backgrounds, and more importantly, with different focal points.
Sometimes one needs to find a compromise while other times there may not even be room for a compromise.
That will mean making the choice that is harmful in one area, to avoid greater harm in another area.
In retrospect, the traffic considerations were miniscule in comparison to the safety concerns of the bridge.
But it shouldn’t have needed to wait until a tragedy occurred to realize that the safety and structural integrity of the bridge should have been top priority.
This situation is starting to repeat itself right now.
There are many experts in many different fields who are giving their opinion as to how people (and communities) should proceed during the current Covid-19 crisis.
All of these experts are giving very valid points to their reasoning.
You have people talking about mental health, about economics, about schooling, about health, about the environment, about constitutional rights, just to name a few.
It can all be very confusing, especially considering that many of these experts contradict each other.
My advice: Remember the bridge.
Imagine that you are the person who was responsible for the bridge and you were called to explain your decision making process. Would you prefer to say that you chose the option that made the bridge the most structurally safe or would you prefer to say that you chose the option that helped create the least amount of traffic?
How can this be explained to children on a more basic level?
Children should ask themselves: “Which choice would be easier to explain to mom and dad, even if things go wrong?”
And parents, you need to ask yourselves the following before making decisions: “Which choice would be easier to explain to my children, even if things go wrong?”
These times are not simple. Many of these choices are difficult choices with very real and difficult consequences.
Which consequence (or even potential consequence) are you ready to justify to your child, and which will embarrass you in retrospect?
Yisroel Picker is a social worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice specializing in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more.
To contact Yisroel about speaking at a child safety event or to discuss a personal case, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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