Wisdom for Our Graduates

Wisdom for Our Graduates

May has been full of graduations – high school, college, and beyond. New graduates are seeking wisdom and advice as they move ahead to life’s next chapter, whatever it may be. Graduates find themselves reflecting on what they have learned and preparing for an unknown future. I heard David Brooks speak on senior day this year at Vanderbilt. He reminded these young twenty-two-year-olds of something important: the person you choose to marry will account for eighty percent of your happiness or eighty percent of your misery in life. That decision is much more important than your first job, where you live, or where you attend grad school. Brooks also said that there are four things that matter most: career, community, faith, and family. Take these things seriously.

Here are a few other lessons to ponder during a time of transition. Life is a journey and not a destination. Even on bad days, we all have much to be thankful for. Love is a choice that must lead to action. It involves risk, perseverance, sacrifice, and hard work. God is working in ways that we cannot begin to understand. Pain, suffering, and disappointment are real, but they always make us stronger. Resilience matters in every stage.

Admitting we are wrong from time to time is healthy. Apologizing shows strength, not weakness. Social media is a great way to connect but is not real life. It cannot be a substitute for face-to-face interaction. Know your top priorities and honor your commitments. We all have selfish tendencies so remember to serve others. Money can buy many things, but it cannot buy happiness, meaning, and fulfillment. Knowledge is power, but is not the same as wisdom. Keep learning. Find a mentor. Learn from your parents’ mistakes. They aren’t perfect. Faith and spiritual growth matter. We should not say things about other people that we wouldn’t want them to hear. If we say it, we should stand by it. Materialism and a false sense of self-sufficiency is the greatest threat to Christianity in North America. The more affluent the society, the more prone we are to self-sufficiency. Jesus was right: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Heart always follows treasure. So invest in the things that have a lasting impact.

Remember Mahatma Gandhi’s seven blunders of the world: wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; commerce without morality; science without humanity; religion without sacrifice; politics without principle. These things are real. The government cannot solve all of our problems. Hateful partisanship and incivility have the potential to ruin this country. Neither Republicans or Democrats have a monopoly on truth. Labels become a problem. If you happen to be born on third base, don’t act like you hit a triple. Be humble and grateful every day. Keep a gratitude journal. Fear and anxiety must be managed. Tell the truth because lying is a slippery slope. Don’t judge people because you have no idea what they are dealing with. Always learn from other people.

We are blessed to live in the United States, but it’s not the only nation under God. Travel to new places. Seek to help the poor and marginalized. Perception may not be reality. Accusations can be false. Check the source. Rumors can ruin somebody’s reputation. Echo chambers are dangerous. Think for yourself. Take a stand. Credibility is built over time. Trust is built over a lifetime and is the currency of any relationship. Love and appreciate your family, even when it’s hard. Be thankful for friends, for they make life worth living. Pray regularly. Eat healthy. Exercise often. Read to learn. Hope. Dream. Actively listen. Be slow to anger and lash out. Live life one day at a time. Plan for the future but don’t obsess about it. Life rarely turns out the way you plan. The grass is greener wherever you water it. Enjoy every stage of life you are in. It will all go by fast!