BY RICHARD D. DOBBINS
We living in a world full of people who want to be free. However, few people on this planet want to be responsible for their freedom.
The selfish exercise of freedom without responsibility is at its best chaos, and at its worst, anarchy. If this election is typical, less than half of the eligible voters in the United States will go to the polls. This kind of political irresponsibility is a reflection of the personal irresponsibility that plagues our country.
God Has Blessed Americans With the Freedom to Choose
Freedom is a precious gift that has to be cherished if it’s going to be retained. And the price of freedom is never cheap. In times of peace we tend to forget how many people have sacrificed their lives for freedom. Exercising our freedom responsibly is our only guarantee of keeping our freedom.
We all should get interested in politics, because if we do not exercise the freedom we have to affect the course of this country, someone else will step into our place and they will determine events that we later may want to criticize and complain about. But if we have not exercised responsible freedom in voting, we really have no ethical right to complain about the people that are elected by those who are responsible enough to go to the polls and vote.
Choosing Wisely Requires Us To Anticipate the Consequences
We have been looking at national consequences of our choices to be involved or not involved in the political process, but every day you and I are involved in the personal process of making decisions about life. And when we anticipate the consequences of those decisions, we are more likely to make wise choices. Paul speaks to this issue in Ephesians 5:15-17 where he says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise. Don’t be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
When you walk circumspectly, you look around before you walk. To walk circumspectly is to walk carefully. People who walk carefully anticipate the short-term and long-term consequences of their decisions.
Two kinds of people are going to have trouble with decision making. First of all, there is the impulsive person. These are people who act or speak before they think. Often this is because they do not know how to handle the inner tension that they feel. They have never learned that they can tolerate more tension before they act or think, so they have never learned the benefit of taking that extra time to anticipate the consequences of their decisions. So they act or they speak to reduce tension, but often they act or speak prematurely, and it increases the tension. Their impulsive behavior is self-defeating. Instead of lowering the tension within them, which is what that is designed to do from their point of view, they wind up with consequences of decisions that increase the tension that they feel.
The second kind of person who has trouble with decision making, of course, is the compulsive person. These are the people who cannot act until they know they have the perfect response. These are the
They persuade themselves that if they had had the time, they could have made the perfect decision. And these compulsive people then force other people to decide for them. And, of course, they are great
Monday morning quarterbacks. They sit back and criticize the decisions that other people had to make, because they did not make any decisions.
All of Us Make Unwise Choices
I suppose this all began with Adam and Eve. When you take a look at what they had and they blew it, because they did not foresee the consequences of their impulsive choices. These were not compulsive
people; these were impulsive people. They saw; they desired; they ate (see Genesis 3). Others in the Bible made unwise choices. Take a look at Lot, at Abraham and Sarah, and then Isaac and Rebekah. They all made poor decisions and suffered the consequences of their unwise choices.
Somehow sin blinds us to the consequences of our choices. Often we want to blame the consequences of our choices on other people. But each of us has made our share of unwise choices in life.
Accepting Responsibility for Consequences of Unwise Choices Brings Wisdom
The sequence goes something like this. Good decisions are the product of wisdom. Wisdom is the product of experience. And experience is the product of poor decisions.
Some people just do not seem to benefit from experience. But if you were to separate people into two groups–one group those who make good decisions and the other those who habitually make poor decisions–what you would find is that the people who make the better decisions accept responsibility for the consequences of their choices. They learn from the pain of their poor decisions how to take more time to make their choices more deliberate, anticipating the consequences before they make the choice.
As long as you blame others for the poor consequences of your own decisions, you are going to continue to make poor decisions.
But if you are in pain, let the pain provoke change. Pain does not need to kill. Pain can give birth. Take a look at where the pain is coming from; own the consequences of your own poor decisions. Ask God to help you to begin to learn from that pain how to anticipate the consequences of the future and make wiser decisions.
Wisdom Gained From Pain of Previous Unwise Decisions Results In Wiser Decisions
In Romans 5:3-5, Paul says, “But we glory in tribulation also; knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope does not make us ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.”
Notice the path to wisdom. It begins with tribulation. Take a look at the things you’ve gone through in your life that have been really trying. Out of those have come some invaluable lessons of wisdom. After tribulation comes patience. When you pray for patience, do not be surprised when you get tribulation, because that is what works patience. Patient people have been through a lot of things. And their patience has given them experience; there you have the path to wisdom: Tribulation works patience; patience, experience, and then hope.
How is all this possible? God’s love saturates our hearts. When God’s love saturates our hearts, we are no longer fearful and we no longer feel a need to be perfect. We understand what grace is.
Now the impulsive person is anxious and fearful, so he or she makes premature decisions which are likely to be unwise decisions. But when you realize how much God loves you, you can find in God’s love a
security that lowers your level of anxiety and helps you to be more deliberate in facing your decisions in life. As for the compulsive person, the love of God can teach you that you do not have to be perfect. The relief from not having to be perfect will result in your being more decisive. You will accept your own margin of error, take more control of your own life, and get over the pain of procrastination.
If you are suffering the consequences of some poor decisions that you have made, own those decisions. Do not blame them on someone else. By accepting responsibility for the decisions that have brought you pain, you will become less impulsive when faced with similar decisions in the future. In the face of major decisions begin to ask yourself, If I take option ~a,~ where will that take me in 1 year? in 3 years? in 5 years?
As you accept the consequences of poor decisions in your past God will help you celebrate the consequences of better decisions in your future.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY GUIDELINES FOR GOOD LIVING, A PUBLICATION OF THE MEDIA MINISTRIES OF THE ASSEMBLIES OF GOD, VOL. VIII, NO. 97. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.