Have more than thou showest, speak less than thou knowest, lend less than thou owest.
William Shakespeare, King Lear Act I Scene IV
These words spoken by the eponymous monarch of one of Shakespeare’s most tragic plays are ones that he himself failed to heed as he became infuriated by the straightforward honesty of his youngest daughter Cordelia and was instead seduced by the flattering but empty words of her elder siblings, Goneril and Regan. Ultimately, at the end of a web of deceit and betrayal, all four end up dead.
A date night rom-com, it isn’t.
In a slightly less dramatic context, these are wise words that warn against laying all your cards on the table for others to take advantage of. It also hints at the dangers of allowing one’s ambition to exceed one’s ability, means or position.
It’s a tricky balance to find when supporting our children’s development. Every parent wants to encourage their kids to be the best they can possibly be but equally there comes a point beyond which a healthy level of confidence becomes an unhealthy arrogance or, ultimately, self-delusion. Just think of all those singers on reality TV shows who have been told by everyone around them that they are the next Katy Perry when in fact they’re more Kevin and Perry and simply cannot accept the fact that is obvious to everyone else.
I want my children to be everything they can be and not to be constrained by fear of failure. But at the same time I want them to be self-aware enough to realise that they won’t necessarily be the best in the world at everything they try, and that’s just fine.
Walk on the right side of the line that divides confidence from arrogance. Be proud of but not boastful of their abilities and achievements. And offer people constructive honesty rather empty platitudes.
If they can do that, they’ll be just fine.
This is the last edition of this weekly series of quote-based posts. I will continue to post these on an ad hoc basis but not every week. I hope you’ve enjoyed them – and look out for more in the future.
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