I love graduations and graduation parties. While I won’t personally be attending any such gatherings this year, I love to see the pictures and hear the stories about the graduations of other people’s children, friends, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren. I find myself being moved just hearing stories about the graduation celebrations. As I reflect a little further on why I love graduations so much, I realize that I love them because they so clearly celebrate two values that I hold in high esteem. The first value is the importance of community. Of all the pictures I have seen of graduates so far this year, I notice that it is rare to see one that does not include other people standing with the graduate. It might be a relative standing with the graduate, or a favorite teacher. It might also be other classmates who have walked with the graduate toward his or her special day.
What these photos confirm is that graduates have not achieved their goals on their own. It takes a village to support a graduate. Others have made sacrifices for the graduate to succeed and without a community of support it is not likely the graduation that is being celebrated would be occurring.
The second value that graduations celebrate is the value of self-discipline. A supportive community, while necessary, is not sufficient in of itself to get a person to graduation. Each graduate also needs to develop the habit of self-discipline. Self-discipline can be defined as the ability to exchange the pleasure of short-term gratification for longer-term goals. So graduations are not just celebrations of acquired knowledge, but also of the fact that the graduate has acquired the habit of self-discipline.
Graduations are typically celebrated at the end of a multi-year process and thus indicate that the graduate has learned to practice self-discipline over an extended period of time. The graduates have formed the kind of daily habits that have allowed them to accomplish in this longer-term achievement.
Graduations are probably so moving to me because the two values that they celebrate are in fact two of the values that we all need in order to experience the fullness that life has to offer. Community and self-discipline are essential for all of us, not just for those attending school. With the combination of self-discipline and a supportive community, any of us can learn and grow in all kinds of ways. Self-discipline and a supportive community are keys to our spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and vocational wellness.
So let’s celebrate with great delight the graduates in our lives! And as we do, may we also remember that these graduates can inspire us to reach for some of our own goals. Is there an important long-term goal that you have? If so, then the chances are that you, too, can best reach that goal through a combination of practicing self-discipline and surrounding yourself with a supportive community.