is safety a virtue or vice?

Sometimes I will admit to people, “I’m not a real safety-oriented mom.”  

I hope you aren’t gasping in horror.  But it’s true (although mostly unintentional).  I just don’t think of safety a whole lot.  And it’s not because I’ve never been in proximity to people who have had bad things happen to them, like car accidents or other types of accidents.  I think it’s more of a combination of the way I was raised and what I hope is common sense.  Though I may be wrong on that.

Does knowledge require action?  If I know that kids are safer when wearing a helmet, am I then required (morally) to have them wear one?  And how often is often enough?  When riding bikes?  Scooters?  Running fast?  Always when on pavement?  When riding in a car?  In the home?

For me, I think of helmets as essential when on a high traffic street or when riding a motorcycle.  But it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me to let kids ride their bicycles without one in a neighborhood with minimal, slow-driving traffic.

But is this a legitimate moral line I’ve drawn?  Or just preference?  When does safety become a must?

Should I have child locks on my cupboards?  Should we have a barrier to our pond (although the tall grasses provide a pretty good one.)?  A fence around our yard?  The standard for safety seems to be getting higher and higher.  So much so that I believe our children will be in car seats until they are teens.  I wish I were joking about that.

Should I be viewing high safety standards as a bit of common grace from God that allows us to better protect our children?  Or is it a type of idol that we are enslaved to, giving us a false sense of control in regard to our children’s well-being?  Or maybe it could be either.  

Our parents certainly didn’t have the safety standards we do, but they also lacked the information and equipment.  So how much safety is enough to assuage our consciences that we’ve done enough?  

What are your must-do safety standards?  Do you think a high regard for safety brings glory to God?  What about those who are unconcerned with safety?  Can this view bring glory to God?

12 thoughts on “is safety a virtue or vice?

  1. My wife is the safe nut, I’m the more liberal one. Must confess though, children are gifts from God, so to neglect to do the things that we know will protect them has always convicted me to step it up. I really turned the corner with child safety after watching a video by John Walsh called Safe Side Super Chic. It is worth it. Check it out:

  2. It’s hard to disagree with child safety.. I’m just wondering where the line is? How much “safety” is enough? And when is the “safety” just overprotection and the manifestation of a worry wart?

  3. Good topic and hard to answer in a black and white manner. When talking about Christan parents, I think this issue is a “heart issue” between the person and God. What motivates the protection, and when is rest entered, giving God his due place over the child? I know I error on the side of trying to be overprotective, making my role something it isn’t…trying to control things that only God can. It gives me great comfort when I am reminded that I have been given gifts from God to care for, they aren’t mine…they are His that I get to take care of in order to bring Him glory.

    I’m convicted that when I enter the worry state (overprotective parent) that this can damage my children in the long hull as well as my relationship with God. Meaning, worrying about things I can’t control will rule my mind and body and make me a tired Mom, stealing a great deal of the joy in my day. And the bigger outcome is that my children would see me displaying a lack of trust in God and my role as his servant, and honestly caring for his gifts (my children) to the best of my ability.

    So, this is a more personal answer, but for me, I try to be logical about my protective choices. Brad helps me a great deal in this area and is good at gently reminding me of when I’m worrying rather than protecting/caring.

  4. These are really good questions. I like what Lynette had to say.

    In my own life I’ve tended to struggle with impatience, control and perfectionism. Being a mother has actually helped me to loosen up in these areas, thinking more about how my actions may effect our son versus my own comfort.

    I’d also like to point out that this is precisely why God never intended us to parent solo. Having a spouse to consult, bounce ideas off and pray with is invaluable.

    We begin each day asking God for his guidance and good judgment in parenting. We always educate ourselves on safety issues and then we trust God will lead us to the right answer. After that I guess we just don’t worry about it.

    I don’t think there is necessarily one right answer when it comes to all safety. Obviously I believe we need to follow the law. But beyond that every family is unique and what’s best for our family may not be best for theirs. Hopefully they will also turn to God for answers.

  5. Thanks Lynette and ghiland! Great perspectives that point us to God. I am on the other end of the spectrum.. not overly safety conscious and I usually don’t struggle with worry.

    After thinking for while, I realize that I fear more what people think of me in regard to safety. For instance, if I determine (with reasonable judgment) that it’s ok for my kids to ride bikes in the cul-de-sac without a helmet, then I need to quit worrying what other moms might think of that and be ok with a decision that I made.

    If it’s a decision made with love for my kids and under the authority of God and with reasonable logic, then I need to get over the “fear of man syndrome” (or what my husband lovingly refers to as FOMS).

    The Godly ways in which you both deal with worry for your kids certainly apply to the way I deal with FOMS.

  6. When our son was 1-2 years old (he’s 5 1/2 now) he would ‘sort’ a box we had of screws, nails and bolts. Of course he was supervised, but I never felt he was in danger or it was something he shouldn’t be doing. I remember other moms looking at me a bit in horror.

    I wish I could tell you how I felt about that at the time, but I had terrible PPD for more than the first 2 years of our son’s life. Sadly my memories are very limited from that time.

    Now in hindsight I hope my feelings at the time were the same as they are today. I know our son. I know his limits. I know God has made me a very level headed person and I trust him and my judgement. So I pretty much don’t care what others think of me.

    I hope that doesn’t sound too flipant. It’s just that I’ve had a lot of things happen to me in my life where the only way to cope was to completely turn everything over to God. My trust in him is unwaivering.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog. You seem like a very real and lovely person. No doubt you are a great mom too (with superb judgement :))!

  7. We always wear seatbelts, even when driving on the quietest streets. Yet people who know people who have been trapped in cars in fatal accidents balk at wearing them even though it is a law in our state. I didn’t think it was that important until a friend who was a paramedic told me the statistics, so I started wearing mine before it was a law.

    I’ve never felt it necessary for the kids to wear bike helmets riding around our quiet neighborhood, but it is a law here for kids under 12, so I had to make them do it.

    I agree that the safety laws are becoming too strict in many cases.

    Yet if it is in our power to take measures to keep our kids safe, we should probably do it.

    In other words, I’m wishy washy.

    After taking a hard fall in the driveway last winter and having headaches for months, having one of my kids tumble down a flight of stairs onto the concrete basement floor as a baby with the whole family looking out for him one Thanksgiving Day, and a variety of other near tragedies, I tend to be kind of overprotective.

    Another kind of test would be, if something keeps nagging at us, like–we really should put a barrier around that pond–then we should probably pay attention to nudgings like that. But we shouldn’t go looking for trouble around every corner so that we’re paralyzed or so busy safety proofing our property that we can’t enjoy it.

  8. Another side of things. Although I’m pretty messy about most things. Stuff tends to lie around the house, I don’t dust often enough, etc., I am totally picky about germs–salmonella, e. coli, and things like that–to a fault some people think.

    I have to always have utensils on a spoon rest or napkin–never just resting on the counter or table.
    I take great measures to be sure the raw meat doesn’t touch any surfaces, or if it does, that it gets sanitized immediately. Hands are washed and rewashed between stages of cooking. All of the underwear must be washed in hot water…

    One friend was getting on me about the laundry. She said she does everything in cold water to save energy and money and no one ever gets sick. I tried to justify my actions by telling her my husband takes anti-rejection medicine for a transplant so we have to be extra careful. She said I was probably that way before the transplant, which is true. But that doesn’t mean that the Lord couldn’t have made me extra careful about germs because he knew we would have a serious health issue to deal with.

    Sometimes the things we are quirky about–they might just be for a reason.

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