Graduation Speech Cartoon Posted May 24, 2019

Can't go to hell; I'm all out of vacation days.

Grad season is the worst.

It's that time of year when colleges pay up to six figures for some celebrity or politician to come in and pepper the graduating class with all kinds of hot knowledge. It's something you've experienced hundreds of times already through corporate outings, TED talks, media presentations, new product launches, and so on. You want some advice? Don’t go to your college graduation. College took enough out of your life, so keep that afternoon for yourself.

That's not to say graduation speeches can't be great, but I can guarantee you that you'll forget all but maybe a sentence or two of it the following day. Take it from someone who records and edits church sermons on a regular basis; Even I can't remember what my pastor said from any given week.

You see, these speeches are effectively like drugs. You might feel great for a little while – but once reality sets back in you go back to being just as miserable as before, if not worse. You go out and merge onto the highway, only to have some Toyota Sequoia with happy stick figurines plastered on the back cut you off. You seethe as they run through a yellow light at an intersection, leaving you in their dust. Then you have someone right on your tail, even though you're going ten or fifteen over the speed limit. You'll eventually blow off steam at someone – whether it's your spouse, or your waitress, or some guy at a gas station.

Everyone has done this at some point in their life. EVERYONE. And if you haven't, you've probably reciprocated your pain and hurt in worse ways. This is the painful truth I wish I had known growing up: These tendencies will only get worse as you get older. I grew up with a borderline abusive father, who would verbally – and sometimes physically – lash out on me over the tiniest of infractions. I remember promising myself to do everything in my power to not end up like him. Fast forward to my early thirties when I tried to correct my nephew for doing something stupid. As kids often do, he refused to listen to a single word I said and went right back to doing the stupid thing. So I became enraged and did my own stupid thing by blowing up on him, shattering his feelings and any emotional stability he had in the process.

Feel free to shoot me a nasty e-mail, because I know I deserve it. But heed my warning – you will not only be hindered by the powers that be, you WILL become them. You will become the very power that you despise. To quote from the 2008 film, The Dark Knight – "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain."

Your speaker will certainly have ruined a few lives in order to get to where they are now. Maybe your speaker is some "respected and established" journalist, who is burdened to constantly produce viral stories at other people's expense. Maybe your speaker is some government official, who recently decided to bulldoze the nearest mental health facility and replace it with a Wal-Mart. Maybe your speaker is someone from Google – you know, the same company whose slogan was "Don't Be Evil" back in the day?

The fact is you will hurt people in your life. You can't avoid it. You might even have to hurt someone for the greater good. Sometimes you have to be the one breaking the news to your superiors that times have changed and that their approach no longer works. Sometimes you have to be the one exposing problems that have been covered up for far too long. Sometimes you have to call people and their toxic behavior out in full public view. Nobody in their right mind would actually want to dish out a black eye – but what if it prevented a deadly infection from possibly spreading? You have to be ready for that dilemma. Sometimes hurting people is only correct option you have.

I'm sorry for not being my typical evangelistic self, but even Christians need to draw the line somewhere. The best thing you can do is be surrounded by those who are supportive and are willing to sort out your situation, because it's only going to get messier from here. And try to pay it forward as often as you can.

Order another round if you must.