A Margin of Safety   Laurence Gawronsky 2020/11/01

In the United States Declaration of Independence written in 1776 it says ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’.  

The idea of a ‘self-evident’ truth is worth considering because often the truth isn’t ‘self-evident’. You may have been in a situation with somebody where the truth is obvious to you, but not to them. They may not see the need for truth in their lives or the value of a greater philosophic truth. It is only as our consciousness changes that we begin to see the self-evident truth. If one’s consciousness stays stuck at a certain level one won’t grasp it. As we are willing to awaken and uplift our consciousness, the self-evident truth becomes more clear.

Viktor E. Frankl wrote ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.’ This enables us  begin to see the truth that was not evident in our previous state of consciousness.

From 1776, when the Declaration was made, to the end of the Civil War in 1865, its terms seemed to only applying to some men and not to others. In 1964 in the US the Civil Rights Act was passed to further the idea that ‘All men are equal’, yet the riots in 2020 in some cities in America had a politically racial undertone. This is just one example of when consciousness changed very slowly so as to become more inclusive and accepting.

In allowing our consciousness to change we become more trustworthy. I watched a romantic comedy where the two characters had to develop trust between each other before their relationship could go further. Investor Benjamin Graham coined the term a ‘margin of safety’ – an investment term. It also applies in any loving relationship, where one feels safe with another person so that trust can develop. It takes time to develop a margin of safety that allows people to be themselves and express themselves freely.

If one is too cleaver, too cutting, too demanding, too aggressive or is quick to judge there is no margin of safety. Then it is more difficult to allow trust and intimacy to develop because the person’s guard is up. It takes maturity to have a change in consciousness, leading to greater acceptance and understanding.

It is important to have a margin of safety in a family. One of the most difficult things as a parent is to maintain this margin. Because parents have experience and therefore think they know what should be done because it is self-evident. But for the child it may not be so self-evident, if they find the parent dominating and opinionated. As we develop that margin of safety with our children, they can begin to discover the truth for themselves. We also need to see whether we are just being arrogant or can share together in an honest way so that the truth can come out. This also applies to extended family and friendships. Amongst close members of family and friends there can be arguments and fights, but even in airing these differences there has to be a margin of safety.

Viktor E. Frankl also wrote “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”. We have this choice to choose our response in any given situation. Then rather than being self-righteous or squabbling about what we think is right, we can choose a response that opens up new vistas and carries us forward by generating trust and creating the margin of safety for the best solution for all concerned to grow and thrive.

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