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Sam Davidson's blog

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You Need a Rafiki in Your Life

This weekend, while parenting my daughter all alone, we watched The Lion King. She only looked up from her toys every few minutes and wasn't nearly as interested in the movie as she was her blocks and a piece of paper I gave her (we're still working on a love of cinema). But, as I rewatched one of the greatest Disney films of all time, I was drawn to Rafiki, the sage monkey who plays a critical role. And as watched, I realized: We all need a Rafiki in our life.

Rafiki is the one who celebrates the births and personifies the circle of life. He reads the wind and offers advice in a way that is encouraging and not demanding. He is the unseen hand that mystically guides the characters to do what is right. And here's why you need one:

  • Rafiki tells the truth. Sometimes, it's hard to find truth in our lives. White lies and tame compliments seem to be preferred over the truth. When someone tells us we can't do something, we get offended. In reality, they could be saving us time and even embarrassment. How many American Idol hopefuls need a Rafiki?
  • Rafiki teaches. We have a terrible myth in our culture that learning stops when you graduate something. The smartest and most successful people I know are always learning - from magazines, from books, from blogs, from others. Where are you learning? From whom? Find someone who can teach you.
  • Rafiki believes. No matter your religious affiliation, there's no denying Rafiki is deeply spiritual. That's why he says he knows (not knew) Mufasa. He also poured juice in a gourd and determined that Simba was alive, too. There is something still intimately religious and spiritual about our world. And even in you don't attend a church or mosque, having people in your life who believe deeply in something unseen can be an advantage to you. Knowing people who are in touch with their spiritual side and use that context to describe things can give you a glimpse of hope and possibility, too.
  • Rafiki fights. In the end, when the hyenas were looking to keep Scar as king, it's Rafiki who shows up with his stick and fights off several of them. His convictions are such that he'll fight for them. He believed Simba should be king and would go to his death to make it happen. It's one thing to have people offer advice or even tell the truth; it's another to have those same people be willing to help you be the person you were meant to become.
  • Rafiki is not a friend. You only see Rafiki at ceremonies and in times of deep learning (or fighting). You don't see him palling around with Timon and Pumbaa, or romping with Nala or Simba. While we need someone in our life to provide the above things, we must remember it's okay for them to not be a friend. When someone isn't deeply attached to us, they're able to offer better advice and tell the truth more objectively.

Who is the Rafiki in your life? Who can you turn to (or who comes after you) when you need to be doing something else? Who steers you, corrects your course, teaches you, and enlightens you?

Find them.