I know. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? “Follow your dreams” sounds a lot better. It’s the message of Disney princesses and rock stars and pretty much everyone else. And a lot of times the princesses are right. A lot of times we really do need encouragement to keep going towards a goal. It’s good advice.
Except when it isn’t.
What kind of dream were we talking about, anyway? It’s all a bit ambiguous. Hitler had a dream, after all: A pure race, ruling the world. He devoted his life to see that dream come true. Would we send the princesses and their encouragement to him? Is this example extreme? Yes. It’s what the internet does, compare everything to Hitler. Still… what about that ambiguity?
The brush may be soft, but it’s too broad. “Follow your dreams” might just as easily encourage a struggling artist, a tired entrepreneur, and a relentless stalker. And even if our dreams are truly good, how do we “follow” them? Is it by hard work and long nights, or by cut corners and betrayal? Once again, we’re not too sure. And our heroes and heroines in Hollywood have only muddied the water for us, teaching us that breaking all the rules for the sake of a dream is actually pretty cool.
Maybe I’m being pedantic. Most people have normal enough ambitions, after all. It’s not bad to dream of good relationships, happy children, career success, athletic achievements, or artistic proficiency. Still, the relentless one-way encouragement to “follow your dreams” might not always be as helpful as it sounds. Reality is often too hard to fit into the moulds we try to make for it. Relationships are messy. Accidents happen. There’s too much that’s beyond our control. Even those who beat the odds to achieve the pinnacles of success in any given sphere often do so at the expense of other areas of life, and sometimes at the expense of other people. A man who dreams of career advancement may leave his children essentially fatherless, sacrificing them on the altar of his ambition. A woman who dreams of Olympic glory may have difficulty finding time to develop deep friendships. Parents who dream of the perfect family may crush their children with impossible expectations. Is “following our dreams” worth any price we have to pay?
I don’t think so. I’m all for having dreams, but there are roads I won’t go down, even for the sake of a dream. I will not follow any dream that demands I compromise my integrity. I will not follow any dream that requires the trampling of others. If it comes down to it, I’d rather let my dreams die. They don’t define me, anyway. That’s God’s job, and He’s better at it. At the end of the day, I don’t want to follow my dreams at all. I want to lead them to Him.