Red Flags

August 26, 2014

“Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning…”

The above common phrase is a line from an ancient rhyme of mariners. It is based on the reddish glow of the morning sky, caused by haze or clouds related to storms in the region. The saying assumes that similar clouds are coming from the west.

Red flag is attributed to a warning. It is a signal or sign that there is some danger that should be noticed or attended to. Red flags can be of use, at railroad crossings, for severe storm warnings, as well as, an alert for potential forest fires, due to dry conditions. Wherever impending dangers are possible, a red flag warning, may be appropriate. We too, along with the animal world, are equipped with red flags. They provide us each with a personal sensor that automatically warns us of impending danger; a sense that something just is not right.

A few years ago we had a problem with pesky woodpeckers damaging the cedar siding on our house. We tried home remedies that worked for a time, but soon the pecking would resume. While searching for solutions to our problem on the internet, I stumbled upon a company that manufactured a sound system that emitted the distress calls of woodpeckers, followed by the sound of their predator, the hawk. Once installed and activated, gone were the woodpeckers. With their departure, was avoided a great potential expense in future siding repairs. The focus here is not, solely, the successful ridding of the woodpeckers, but rather a glimpse into how their red flag warning system worked. Nature provides them with that protective system to avert attacks from natural enemies. If not for it, woodpeckers, as other prey of predators, would be defenseless.

Many of us have experienced an uneasy stomach, tenseness or numbness when confronted with a circumstance that instills uncertainty. An uncertainty manifested by fear. It is as though an inner voice implores us to think before we act. In the case of the woodpecker, it is a simple reaction to the flight or fight response to danger that is natural to the animal world, and ourselves as well. We, however, have reason and foresight at our disposal. It affords us the opportunity to observe, in the less critical yet potentially dangerous circumstances, before deciding what action to take. We are capable of over-riding the defense system. We, unlike the woodpecker, wake up each morning quite aware of our physical mortality. We know that danger lurks at every turn. Our woodpecker friend does not possess that benefit or burden, because it is not of his nature. To him, danger is, when danger is.

Red flags, for us, can be both an advantage and disadvantage. A disadvantage, because we can also be frightened by those things that are potentially beneficial to us. Whether it be a new job opportunity or a new relationship, red flags can arise. For often, we are uncertain of possible unseen repercussions that may result from a new experience. One can be as frightened of success, as one can be of failure. Strange as that may seem, it is true. For when one attains a long sought after goal or a much desired someone; it is clear that either can be lost. However, with reason and foresight utilized, a person can avert a knee-jerk reaction to a decision that is before one. We can sleep on it. Woodpeckers do not have that luxury. To sleep on it, in their case, may result in their demise.

So, what is the advantage of our inherent early warning system? The advantages are many. Primarily it helps us to avoid the temptation to blindly move forward with something that may not seem harmful at the moment, but has the future potential to be harmful to one; whether that harm be to body, mind or soul. To name those particular harmful somethings is difficult, because there are fundamental dangers that affect us all, and there are dangers that are specific to us as individuals and our unique circumstances. Instinct alone can not protect us. Instinct, may actually prevent us from experiencing a true good. By including reason and foresight, prior to taking action, one clears the fog of vagueness from the situation at hand.

One must avoid being paralyzed when their instinct alerts them to a potential danger. Paralyzed to the extent of not making decisions at all. Life often involves risk. And it is unavoidable, if one is to live life to its fullest, as intended. Life is a gift, not meant to be left unwrapped, simply because we are uncertain of what may be inside. No matter the nature of a gift, it is still a gift, given out of love. Nothing bad can come from love.

“And which of you, if he asks his father for bread, will he give him a stone? Or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? – Luke 11:11

The true value of a gift can only be known when it is used. In that use, one can realize great satisfaction in achieving worthy goals and the joyful blessing of wonderful friendships that will last a lifetime.

A Prudent decision made, while being directed by right reason, insight and common sense, validates the valuable purpose of red flags. That purpose being two-fold; to protect us from imminent harm, yet encouraging us to avail ourselves to the good that is ever-present. As a result, red flags will not compel a person, in all instances, to wave the white flag of surrender in fear; for such directed persons do not rely on instinct alone.

6 Responses to “Red Flags”

  1. An insightful and well thought out post Alan – thank you!
    Diana xo

  2. One of the most helpful pieces of advice I have found is – when confronted with negative feelings instead of trying to deal with the feeling, look underneath the feeling for the message of what that feeling is trying to tell you.
    So from anger or anxiety or depression which are all very difficult to address, instead you find aloneness, or a new role, or low self-esteem etc which are challenging but if faced can be overcome. This is similar to your ‘red-flag’ warnings, I think.

  3. Healing Grief Says:

    Great Post Alan, when I am conscious of changes or feelings that need to be addressed I find I can let go much easier than when I ignore the signs.

  4. “Life is a gift, not meant to be left unwrapped, simply because we are uncertain of what may be inside.” Love this, Alan! With your permission, I would like to use this on my blog.

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