Risk & Security

Security is expensive. Risk is expensive. It is in the right balance between the two that a right life emerges.

Too much security diminishes life. You need only observe wild animals in the security of a zoo, or couch potatoes who have more of everything than they need. A risk-free environment (physically, mentally, or emotionally) promotes apathy and atrophy.

Too little security is like too little predictability. It is the source of angst and anguish. If you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, your sense of self and of an orderly world suffer. You become disoriented.

Too much risk consumes too much of one’s vital resources. You begin to lose your ability to think. Your internal GPS system goes out of whack. Your stomach is not working as it should.

Too little risk comes from too much security, and too little security leads to too much risk. The two are intimately related.

When you are growing up, you have to learn fast to avoid the social risks involved if you don’t. After people get older they stop learning because they assume they know enough to be secure as long as they can fend off any serious challenges to who they are, what they believe, or how they comport themselves with their familiars. Young people are in a rush to get into their future. Older people are more likely to be content with living in their past.

People whose lives are actually at risk – firefighters, mountain-climbers, sky divers, combat pilots, and soldiers – report that they never felt more alive than during the most live-or-die moments. Even people whose medical prognosis is imminent death seem to come more alive.

Being alive has inherent risks. Those won’t go away.

The British clergyman and historian Thomas Fuller wrote in the 17th-century:

“He that is too secure is not safe.”

What could he have meant by that? – except that there is as much danger in security as there is in risk.

It is now deeply embedded in our culture, in our civilization. We put our environment at risk, in the name of our own security. We put our own destinies at risk, in favor of present securities. When you have too much security, you no longer contemplate the consequences of what you are doing but only the means of doing so.

In that sense, as well, security can become the denial of life.

Doing life as you would have it done involves risks. If you don’t know what those risks are, you may fail – or, far worse, you may give up.

– Lee Thayer, Thought-Leader


Would you put a price on security, comfort, control or an easier life?

Under what conditions would you be willing to risk your standing in the world?

Would you give up who you are in order to be who you need to be?

What would the implications be if you considered the perspective that your happiness is at risk in an overly secure world?

Would you say that having a cause or purpose in life is risky?

Joelle Moles, Institute Mentor