Playing Safe

Since Paul in addressing the Corinthians once drew a most telling illustration of spiritual activity from the races in the Isthmian games, it may be permissible to point a similar moral from the modern athletic field. Sometimes nothing less than a phrase culled straight from the common vernacular will suffice to place a given situation squarely before human thought. When one side in a game has obtained the advantage and tries to maintain this advantage without taking any further risks, it is said to be "playing safe." This policy may succeed for a time, but presently the side which continues to "play safe" loses the power of initiative, drops its individuality and activity, and becomes incapable of further effort.

The reason for this effect is simple enough. "Playing safe" is always due to fear, and eventually earns the fruits of fear; and the same is true in regard to the mental battles so prevalent in human life. Men and institutions after reaching an assured position have a way of settling down into a groove of profitless conservation, which is mental dry-rot. They are tempted to leave well enough alone, or to "let sleeping dogs lie," as the saying is, out of a dread of disturbing others or of being disturbed themselves. Thus fear paves the way for greed, personal power, autocracy, and reaction, and the freshness and spontaneity of spiritual progress is effectually blocked.

An individual or organization bereft of inspiration cannot bring forth demonstration, but is turned over to the tender mercies of mortal mind, which is enabled to know beforehand just what will be done under given circumstances. In this stagnant state of mind individuals often outstay their usefulness in office, and institutions keep on their swaddling clothes long after they have outgrown them. The competitor having run a good race and received a prize, clings to his prize, forgetting that he has other races to run and that his goal is perfection. It is quite useless to look to "the wisdom of this world," even though supported by popularity, or to man-made laws, or to mechanical efficiency for safety from hidden foe or false friend.

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"Mark the perfect man"
March 24, 1917

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