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We Are Built to Be Guardians

Harness your superpower to guard wisdom.

Key points

  • Guardians are custodians, caretakers, and protectors of others.
  • People rely on guardians throughout childhood until they can become guardians themselves.
  • The role of guardianship kicks into full gear in late life, when the importance of passing on the information one has learned becomes apparent.

"One aspect of our pasts that we tend to repeat unremembered are the experiences we absorb in childhood about other people and the world they embody" (Vaillant, 2012).

Here is a riddle:

What do we absorb in childhood, learn through experience in adulthood, and master in late life?

Answer: Guardianship

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay
We are built to be guardians!
Source: Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

We've all had a guardian, and we'll all become one, but we rarely talk about it. This shifting role is vital to our sense of safety, well-being, and identity.

Imagine if you didn't have a guardian. Would you be the person you are today? Likely not. Not only do guardians secure our physical well-being and support us emotionally, but they also provide all of the wisdom passed down from generations before.

As adults, we hold the knowledge and understanding passed from generation to generation. This wisdom shapes us into the vessels that allow us to become guardians securing what we hold most dear: religious beliefs, family values, knowledge, and skills. We ensure our past and build the future, keeping legacies alive.

Who Is a Guardian?

Guardians are custodians, caretakers, and protectors of others. They are responsible not just for specific individuals but also for skills and values, extending their immediate surroundings to culture as a whole. Guardianship requires care and concern—like that of a judge hearing a case, who protects and advocates others and the process of the law.

Our safety and well-being are in the hands of our guardians when we are born and through childhood. Over time, we can rely on ourselves and become the guardians of our very own selves. Then, as we have children to care for, we become guardians of others.

Becoming the guardian of others places us in a position to realize that we must guard both the physical being and intellectual wisdom. Rather than draining us, the role of guardianship generally provides a sense of control rather than a burden when caring for others. We can feel the sense of purpose and importance involved in guardianship.

Late midlife is when we see guardianship kick into full gear. As we grow older, we understand just how important it is to keep the knowledge and information we've learned throughout our lives and ensure it gets retained. We spend our lives gathering and protecting wisdom, memories, skills, and intellect. This involves the past, present, and future because, in the current time, we are guarding and protecting wisdom to disseminate it for the future. Without guardianship, we risk losing people and understanding that we value and that add to the world. We are the keepers of knowledge, not just the keepers of individuals. Holding the mastery allows us to then pass it on to the next generation and future guardians.

We have a superpower. We have the power to guard. And this superpower doesn't require a degree, social standing, or anything other than desire.

Get your cape on and exercise your superpower. You are a guardian of wisdom!


Vaillant, George E.. Triumphs of Experience : The Men of the Harvard Grant Study, Harvard University Press, 2012.