Is your spirit weighed down by cold hard logic?

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Recently, there’s this court case in the UK where the court sided with the hospital to turn off the life-support of a baby suffering from a rare genetic condition. His parents raised a large sum of money to bring him to America for therapy, which presumably will give him a slim chance to live. However, the decision by the European Union court followed cold hard logic—since the baby is suffering, and therapy is unlikely to succeed (or effective), therefore it is better for him to die now and end all suffering than to live and suffer for the sake of a slim chance to survive. That is, let the baby die with ‘dignity’.

I am not a medical professional and cannot comment on the medical opinions of the British hospital or the American medical therapists. But someone made this thought-provoking comment:

The problem with this decision (one which after much reflection, I sadly agree with) is that it will leave his parents forever asking, “If only?” The probability is that the experimental treatment, as far as my limited understanding of it goes, would not have been successful. However probability is not a certainty, and my first reaction was to say give the child the chance even though it is close to zero. Then I recalled the recent death of my father due to liver cancer. There were still options for him to try, and possibly he may have even still been alive today, but I know he would have been in considerable pain and would have had no quality of life. Unlike this tragic case, the decision to withdraw treatment was made by my father himself. But even knowing all this I still ask myself, “If only, then I could have had at least one more day…“ Is it time to let Charlie go? He would thank you if he could.

If only? What if?

These are powerful questions that cold hard logic cannot provide the answers to satisfy the human spirit. Logic can tell you what the probable outcome is. But it cannot let your spirit rest in situations like this. It can never ever answer the what-if and if-only questions.

In this case, no matter how logically correct the court’s decision was, it left no closure in the Charlie’s parents’ minds. It will leave a mark in their pained hearts. They will have no peace in their spirits for the rest of their lives as they think of little Charlie every day. They will be forever asking “What if?” and “If only?”. Without closure, their grief cannot fully conclude.

That is why the court’s decision has generated so much anger around the world. Decisions that are made solely on the basis of cold hard logic can wound the human spirit. In this case, since it is a life and death matter, the lack of humanity in the court’s decision becomes a public spectacle for all to see.

How many what-if and if-only questions are weighing down your spirit?

Unfortunately, we can do the same to our spirits in much less weighty matters.

Very often, we let what is probable stop us and leave the what-if and if-only questions unresolved. The larger the stake, the larger the hole in our hearts becomes if we let these questions remain open. As we get older, the number of hanging what-if and if-only questions accumulate, weighing our spirits down in the form of regrets.

For example,

  • What if I applied for that job 20 years ago? Where will I be today?
  • What if I asked her out when we were young? Will we have a family today?
  • What if I quit my job and started my own business? Will I be stuck in this dead-end position today?
  • If only I had left that relationship, my life may be completely different today?
  • If only I had invested in the shares of that company, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

If only I had tried? What if I had attempted?

What can we learn from entrepreneurs?

Statistically speaking, 90% of startup businesses fail. Logically, if you are dreaming of bootstrapping a new startup business, you shouldn’t bother. It is much safe to work for someone else in a job. If this is how you think, then you are not an entrepreneur.

The entrepreneurial spirit is one in which dismal statistical probability does not impede you from attempting. Yes, an entrepreneur knows that the chance of his or her business’s survival is only one in ten. But does that stop the entrepreneur? No!

Without the entrepreneurial spirit, Thomas Edison would not have invented the light bulb. We wouldn’t have great corporations like Google and Apple. We wouldn’t have the great civil rights movement in America in the 1960s. The great advancements of civilisation exist today because someone dared to attempt to answer the what-if and if-only questions and journey to the other side.

Likewise, in our personal lives, we can adopt some aspects of the entrepreneurial spirit. The costs may be high and we may fail. But in the end, you will not live to suffer the torment of regret from living a what-if and if-only life.


About Terence Kam

Terence’s profile picture is made up of the two archaic Chinese characters for the word 'inspiration' (灵感 or 靈感). The literal Chinese translation of these two characters means 'spirit perception', which is very apt for the meaning of 'inspirit'.

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