EVERY moment in life, we are faced with a choice. Which should command our preference–the demands of our job or the duties to our family?
If there is a board meeting today at the same hours that our son graduates from school, where should we go — to the boardroom or to the graduation ceremony? If we have to make a very important presentation tomorrow, so as to advance our career, but our wife says she has to see the doctor on a suspicion of cancer, which appointment should we keep?
These are the daily battles of conscience we have to wage, trying to keep a balance between our responsibility to earn a living and our opportunity to live a life. And our choices invariably reveal who we really are. Our preferences indicate our true character. Our priorities are the best indicators of our real identity.
What profits success?
I know that many of you out there would go for career on the pretension that after all, you are doing all these for the family. Many of you, dear readers, would rather become outstanding employees, model personnel instead of being doting fathers or loving husbands. Many of you would opt to perform exceedingly well in the office even if you work 12 to 16 hours a day, going home only to change clothes or catch a few hours of sleep.
But what for? At the end of the day, what have you accomplished? What profits a highly successful professional or wealthy businessman if ultimately, he loses his family, wrecks his marriage or dishonors the name he will leave to his children? What has a rich man accomplished if he has built a fortune and founded conglomerates of highly profitable companies and yet drives his own wife to vices or infidelity, his children to drugs and delinquency and himself to spiritual decay and total burnout?
What matters most?
Look around you. The evidence is overwhelming and irreversible.
Families are shattered.
Marriages are broken.
Lives are reduced to utter emptiness.
Even as man advances in wealth and success, he deteriorates on the basic standards of joy, peace and serenity. As we all compete and struggle for power and possessions, we often neglect what really matters most. In our insatiable mania for supremacy over the rest, we often forget the most important things in life.
I will respect your choice. But as for me, my priorities are clear. Between career and family, I will always go for family. I can forego that board meeting and earn the ire of my boss or make a bad impression on my peers. But I shall not inflict a lifetime trauma on my son by sending him alone to graduate without his dad. I can forget that business presentation and lose a valued client or waste a career promotion, but I cannot leave my wife alone in her moments of anxiety.
Meaningless? Why should a well-known public figure commit suicide given all his fame and fortune? Can his wealth and wisdom compensate for ruptures in his relationships? Why should a wife of a famous politician commit adultery with the family driver? Is it lust or vain fixation for the pleasures of the flesh? Or is it the pain of being neglected and ignored by the husband she used to adore? Why should a son cut his wrist or a daughter drink poison despite all the luxuries and pleasures they are showered with? Can money replace love? Can pleasure take the place of affections?
In this age of top line technology and convenience gadgets, why are humans talking to computers rather than with each other? Why are we retrenching people and replacing them with robots and machines? Why have we lost the simple joys of nurturing relationships with bank tellers because we have replaced them with ATMs? Why, with all our cells, e-mails, Internets, websites or the endemic texting, are we no longer communicating? Why are family members no longer talking to each other?
The ultimate hell? To succeed in career and fail in the family is, to me, the ultimate hell.
John Grisham, that famous author of legal fictions wrote “The Testament,” which tells of a highly successful industrialist who made billions of dollars but lost his family. In the first 10 pages of the novel, he jumped to his death from his multi-story building in front of his self-centered children. By his will, he disinherited all of them and bequeathed his entire estate to an illegitimate daughter who refused to accept it.
That is the ultimate irony; those who lusted for money lost it. Those who were given all the money refused it.
In all his dozen masterpieces, Grisham tells us about the importance of family. “A Time to Kill” tells of a father who went to jail for killing his daughter’s rapists.
Indeed, we who are simple folks should learn from the mistakes of others. We should straighten our lives and put our priorities in order.
I don’t know about you. But as for me and my house, our credo is: There is no success in a career that can make up for a failure in the family.
By Atty. Josephus Jimenez