Dear Tristan: Be Yourself

Dear Tristan,

Yesterday I told you how important it is to me that you become someone who thinks for himself. I wanted to talk more about that in today’s letter.

Your mom and I were extremely blessed to have the parents we did. Your Grandma Carol, Grandpa Barry, Papa Fred, and Grandma Pat – whom I’m very sorry you never had the chance to know – are all incredibly special people. I’ve learned an incredible amount from all four of them, and I’m proud to say that all four of them have served as amazing examples for me in certain areas of my life.

But there’s a difference between looking to someone as an example because something in their heart speaks to something in yours, and looking to them as an example just because the general consensus is that you “should.”

If there is one thing I hope you can take away from today’s letter, it is this: Never, ever, ever do anything merely because you “should.” Have a reason for everything you do. Sometimes the reason may be because you want to. Sometimes you may do something to avoid the consequences that come with not doing it. Sometimes it may be because somebody you trust invites or advises you to do so, even if you don’t fully comprehend why. But never do it just because you “should.”

Because when I, or anyone else in your life, tells you that you “should” do something, there is always a deeper reason. You may not understand it every time, but it’s always there. I can tell you right now that I hope the reasons behind what I tell you throughout your life will always be in your own interests – for your protection, growth and general well-being. But at times that may not be the case, and it will almost certainly not be the case of everybody who holds themselves up as an example for you to follow. And if people do not have trustworthy motivations for what they advise, there is no reason for you to follow their example. Many evils throughout history have come from people who held themselves up as examples to follow, expecting (and receiving) blind obedience.

You may come across educational, political or religious leaders who think of themselves as good examples for you, and some of them may be right. Of course, all of us are human, and even your best examples will not be perfect all the time, but only you can be the judge of whether I, or anybody else, is trustworthy enough to be the type of example you want to emulate. I hope I will never give you cause to doubt that, but I might. Any of us might.

Then too, there is the fact that even your best examples will not be you. You are your own person, with desires, opinions and preferences different from mine or anybody else’s. There are some choices that are simply right or wrong. There are others that are right in certain circumstances and wrong in others. But then there are those that are simply a matter of preference. If you decide that your preference in a given area is the same as mine, that’s fine. If it is not, that’s fine too! I hope to be a good, trustworthy example to you in those areas of life where the choices are between right and wrong, but in those areas of life that are matters of opinion, I understand that you will not be another Mike. And I don’t want you to be! I want you to be yourself.

So be wise in the examples you choose to follow. Know that none of them are perfect, and that you owe none of them . . . of us . . . blind, unthinking allegiance.


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