I love this quote by G.K. Chesterton:

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you learn the reason it was put up.”

It reminds of the story of the rich lady interviewing chauffeurs.  She wanted a very good, safe, and skilled driver.  She asked each potential chauffeur the same question during the interview: “Would you be fine with driving 60 mph right next to the edge of a cliff?”  One after another, they gave her the same answer, “Absolutely, I have had the best training and I am highly skilled.”  Finally she asked the question to an older chauffer and his reply was: “Why would you want to drive fast next to a dangerous cliff?  I would stay as far away from danger as possible!”  She hired him on the spot!

Our culture is all about hacking down fences and driving fast next to the edge of cliffs.  The fact is, most fences are built for a reason and it’s hard to fall off a cliff if you keep your distance.

Here are a couple of fences that Dad built for himself that I think we can all benefit from:

1.    He decided he would never be alone with a woman other than my mom for any reason.  This included being picked up from the airport on his many trips, meetings in his office (door always open), and other professional environments as well.  He built the fence far away from the edge of the cliff!  The fence may seem silly to some people, but when you see the bodies at the bottom of the cliff it doesn’t seem so silly!

2.    Dad never reads novels.  I heard him say this again last week (for maybe the 500th time!) and it dawned on me that he has built a fence around his mind.  Dad’s big issue with novels is that few have things he can learn and teach from, and many have beliefs and philosophies that are counter to what he knows is true.  Plus he adds, “Some of those writers are really good and they just might convince me that something not true, is true.”

I know what you mean, Dad.  I have read a few authors who think it’s just fine to have private meetings, even lunch, with members of the opposite sex, even if you are married.  Maybe they should check out the bodies at the bottom of the cliff before they knock down that fence!

Explore posts in the same categories: Faith, family, Purity, Right Choices

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21 Comments on “Fences”

  1. […] Fences « Ziglar Pure and Simple tomziglar.com/2009/10/06/fences-zig-ziglar-g-k-chesterton – view page – cached “Don’t ever take a fence down until you learn the reason it was put up.” — From the page […]

  2. anita Says:

    What a great quote. It sounds like something my husband’s grandfather might have said. How I miss him. I wish our teenagers could benefit from his common-sense wisdom as they ask questions like “would it really hurt if we listened to some rap music or played war video games?” I would dearly love to be able to hear his response.

    Thanks so much, Tom, for this encouragement to really think things through before relaxing our standards.

  3. Jerome Says:

    Mr. Ziglar, I was beginning to wonder when your next post would be! (I blame twitter by the way…)

    This brings up an interesting question, but one that frightens me (for I don’t want to give up video games). When does entertainment cross the line to become destructive? Granted, I don’t play the games when I have something *important* to do, but there is always something out there that can be a more productive use of my time.

    Where is that balance?

    • Tom Ziglar Says:

      Aww, great question!

      (I have been bogged down by the way so I have not been active much on the blog or twitter for almost a month)

      You have two questions to ask yourself when it comes to filling your mind with video games (entertainment)
      Is it good content?
      How much time?

      I have been known to spend a great deal of time on Halo (in the past). Not exactly wholesome, but, those bugs need to be killed! Still, not the wisest thing I can do.

      It starts with your priorities, and making sure you are spending your time in your priorities. This will tell you if you are spending to much time on entertainment.

      Just as important, what values are important to you? If something is promoting values that are not what you believe, then cut it off.

      I think there can be some exceptions, but this is a good rule of thumb.

      There is a place in life for entertainment, just don’t let it run your life. I would be careful of role-playing games that really promote values that are not biblically based.

      Tom Ziglar
      My Blog
      p 972.383.3201
      f 972.991.1853

  4. AJ Buerer Says:

    Wow! This is a profound post, Tom. The truth in what you say is powerful, though not always comfortable to hear. It seems like we as a society are always drawing boundaries as close to danger as possible (e.g. Christians who ask if a certain behavior is a sin to determine if it’s okay to do it, using online blood-alcohol calculators to determine if little enough alcohol is in a person to allow them to drive legally), not leaving any space for safety. You reminded me why I have not been watching TV, a boundary that I set for myself several months ago but have ignored a few times recently. Thank you.

  5. Mike Says:

    Thanks for the timely “Fence”! I am married and was scheduled to have a business lunch alone with a single woman. I was a bit hesitant and now I know that I will either cancel the private lunch or invite another person. As always, keep blogging!

  6. Mike Muhney Says:

    Hello Tom. Using this medium to reach you and kindly request the courtesy of a reply to know how to connect with you over the phone.

    Thanks in advance.

  7. Misty Mays Says:

    Wow this is an excellent piece of work. I have seen some poetry and postt around but what stood out was Dad decided he would never be alone any other woman besides your mom if all men/women thought like this, how beatiful would marriage be.This blew me away.

  8. Cork Hutson Says:

    Tom – The “bodies at the bottom of the cliff” visual is a powerful illustration. Proverbs 7 immediately came to mind.

    I have linked Ziglar Pure and Simple to my new blog: http://noblesuccess.wordpress.com

    I have been a big fan of your Dad for years and look forward to reading your published works as well.

    • Tom Ziglar Says:

      Cork – yes that is pretty “visual” isn’t it! It doesn’t tell half the story though. Most people drag their families with them when they go over these kinds of cliffs. Thanks for the link to your blog. I look forward to checking it out.

  9. Russ Riddle Says:

    Great post, Tom!

    I love the image of building a fence around our mind.


    • Tom Ziglar Says:

      Russ – yep, its strong. Will you respond to this if you get it? The email format has changed for WordPress and I am not sure if people are getting my replies.

      Tom Ziglar
      My Blog
      p 972.383.3201
      f 972.991.1853

  10. Audrey Says:


    Wow, excellent post. Did you know that in orthodox judaism, men and women stay separated as you describe in your post? It’s all about not being tempted and not taking risks. Why say “oh I’m sure I won’t be tempted”, instead say “I won’t put temptation out there” huge difference. Glad I stopped by this morning.

    Oh about reading…oh goodness, I can’t imagine life without novels…total fiction!!

  11. Melissa Says:

    Wow. Very interesting point. Great quote, don’t quite agree with the theory of not being alone with women. I’m not saying this to be rude at all, but it’s not the 1950’s anymore. Sure that theory might have held some weight back then, but times have changed.
    My boss is a male, and we have more women employees than men, and he meets with us all individually all the time. If he wouldn’t meet with us individually, but would meet with the men, i would think he’s being sexist. The theory insinuates to me (i’m absolutely sure this isn’t true, but this is the feeling i get), that he didn’t trust himself enough to be around women.
    I don’t see any problem with it and think it’s completelly acceptable, especially considering the amount of women in business these days.
    I feel as a society we’ve outgrown the notion that just because a man and a woman are together in the same room, something unsavoury is going to happen.

    • Tom Ziglar Says:

      Melissa – thanks for your reply. Yes, times have certainly changed and it may be tougher or socially more difficult to build the fences that were easy to build in the old days. One of the ways we handle it in our office is that we have in the past installed side-windows in our offices so that you could have a private conversation in full view. Most of the time though we just keep the doors wide open. I have also had to improvise a bit. Personally I go on sales calls and our best sales people have many times been women. There has been more than one occasion where we have taken different cars. It sounds like an inconvenience or being old fashioned, but there are countless people you meet who wish that had done the same.

  12. Nalyd Rett Says:

    ugh, tom, forgive my frankly-worded opinion, but you had me until the ‘don’t read novels’ part…heaven forbid that one should read great literature (dickens, tolstoy, melville, orwell, steinbeck, etc)…it seems to me that building a fence around one’s mind shouldn’t involve making extreme generalizations; can’t adults simply be discriminating in their choices of what they read, instead of turning their back upon all novels? i am concerned that this no-novels rule is a recipe for a rather one-dimensional mind, uncultured and addicted to books filled with how to’s, anecdotes and moralisms. the funny thing is that the majority of the bible is written in narrative form, and as you know, jesus himself told tons fictional stories called parables in order to make a profound point. perhaps it would be better to reconsider this ‘no novel’ business and simply affirm ‘great novels only’?

    • Tom Ziglar Says:

      Nalyd – great point, and I don’t think Dad would argue against you in that great novels are fine. Dad’s underlying position is that “if he can’t teach it, he won’t read it” and because he has more good non-fiction books than he has time to read, he decided against novels. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  13. Frank Says:

    But your dad constantly quotes from authors (e.g Dickens and Shakespeare).

  14. Margot Says:

    Its pathetic! Not willing to have dinner with some member of the opposite sex proves there is still a long way to go in emancipation struggle

    • Tom Ziglar Says:

      Margot – I think you may be missing the point. Any business meeting worth having is worth the effort to avoid the one on one time with the opposite sex. How many marriages do you know of personally that would have avoided tragedy if the spouses had followed this simple rule?

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