Bin Laden is Dead! Now What Symbol in YOUR Life Needs to Die?

Posted Monday, May 02, 2011



So, like most of us--I woke up this Monday morning to the news that the man at the top of the US Government's MOST WANTED list is dead. Killed in a raid by Navy Seals in Pakistan.

I listened to the coverage on the radio, read the newspapers, and scoured the internet. I was struck over and over by tremendous emotion that people were feeling about the event. The jubilation in knowing he's dead and in some cases joy that brought grown men to tears. What is it about one man that could create such powerful reactions. I won't pretend to know the depth and breadth of it all but I do have some ideas about it.

Primarily, Osama Bin Laden is a symbol. He is a symbol of the specific brand of hatred he subscribed to towards America and the monstrous actions he planned, funded, and implemented on citizens all over the world. He is a symbol of many of our fears. He is a symbol of much of what we don't understand about the middle east. He is a symbol that reminds us of that horrific day nearly ten years ago when we watched people dying.

For me, Osama is a powerful symbol of a messed up world where violence trumps kindness at nearly every turn.

The entire thing got me thinking though. It got me thinking about the fact that the power of Osama Bin Laden's symbolism was much greater than any power that he really had. The man has been on the run for almost a decade with certainly some positional power in a feared organization but I'm having a hard time thinking of something powerful that he did in the last nine years. In terms of personal freedom--prisoners in US jails have more freedom than he had.

So here's the coaching question that has me pondering what this means to me and you:

What symbol in your life have you given way more power than it really has? What story are you telling yourself about the importance of something that simply isn't true? 


  • It could be the symbol of a perfect american life. Marriage, kids, house, an SUV, a Prius, and a dog. It's an enticing image. It says everything will be OK when I get all of that. It's not true. Joy in your life happens when you live it--not when you chase the facade. Let it die. 
  • It could be your image of what it means to have a perfect marriage. That's someone else's symbol--not yours. Your marriage has the greatest joy when you both are being you, together, in partnership--not when you are trying to make up for all your parent's mistakes. Let it die. 
  • It could be your image of what parenthood is supposed to be. You try and try to measure up to it--and you find that the most powerful moments with your children aren't when you are the perfect dad or mom, but when you are broken and vulnerable. Let it die. 
  • It could be your image of what your perfect religious life should be. You left it long ago but you still beat yourself up by giving it power over you. Let it die. 
It's just a symbol. It's not truth. The truth is much harder to define than a symbol. We can't control the truth but one thing I can assure you: it is so much more beautiful than any symbol ever conceived.

I'll ask you again. What symbol in your life needs to die?


Check out our last 6 eNewsletters:

November 4, 2016--Crossing the Continental Divide (Both Literally and Metaphorically)


May 13, 2016-Are You Embracing Your Goo?

April 6, 2016--Micromanagement is Good Management


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