6 Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
What does it mean to train a child in “the way”? There are many ways described in Proverbs, including the way of the faithful ones (2:8), the violent (3:31), the way of wisdom (4:11), the wicked (4:19), and even the ways of the ant (6:6). The focus in each instance is on character, not on destination. Consider your own upbringing. Were you taught to be prudent, honest, diligent, and self-controlled – no matter the circumstances? Or was the focus instead on the destinations of achievement, education, wealth, or self-fulfillment – by whatever means necessary?
“And when he is old he will not depart from it.” The Proverbs are primarily concerned with paths, it is in this context that destinations are described. The child in training spoken of here is still on the path when he is old, whatever successes or failures he had along the way did not end his journey. He has been taught how to walk, so to speak, how to face life no matter where he happens to be. What can be said of those who are taught only to achieve? Who has prepared them for the anticlimax of having reached their goals while lacking the fulfillment they had hoped for? What is one to do, having reached such a destination, with the remainder of his time? Those on the path of wisdom do not have this problem, as there is always something ahead worth pursuing. The further they go the less interested they are in departure.