Sometimes life refuses to give us a choice.
Simply put, we don’t get to choose everything that happens to us.
If, on a snowy day, a car takes a split-second to slide into my lane, I will likely experience some damage to my vehicle. Not my choice.
Sometimes we are afflicted by a serious illness. Never anyone’s choice.
A crumbling economy or economic collapse? Not too many volunteers.
But, on the other hand, life is full of choices we DO get to make.
The challenge is to make them wisely.
And, fortunately, there is a lot of good advice to ponder.
Seth Godin recently posted a short blog piece that got me thinking about how I make choices in the midst of my busy life:
If it’s an obligation, then you don’t have a choice. Pretending you do is simply a way to create frustration. Free yourself to simply do what you have to do. On the other hand, if you do have a choice (and you probably do) then it doesn’t make sense to treat it as an obligation. Own the choice.
Seth’s post reminds me of how challenging choices can be, particularly in regard to relationships, whether they at be at work, the home or in the community.
Several years ago while at a small pastor’s conference, I heard some incredible advice about making wise relational choices.
The speaker (whose name escapes me, but I do remember he was a professor of counseling at Fuller Seminary) shared that, in most situations, we have three options to what we say “yes” to:
- We say “yes” to something because we want to say “yes.” (“Do you want to go fishing?” “Yes!”)
- We say “yes” to something, even if we don’t feel like it, because in the end we believe our “yes” is the right thing to do. (“Will you take the trash out?” “Hmmm, I don’t really feel like it, but if it doesn’t get done, the house will start to smell.”)
The third type of “yes” is the one that gets us in trouble:
- We say “yes” to something that we strongly don’t want to do for a variety of reasons, and because we say “yes” instead of “no” we harbor negative feelings and resentments.
In most cases, our speaker declared, this type of “yes” ought to be a “no.”
Sometimes we are obligated to do something. Such is life.
But in many instances, someone (including ourselves) can make us feel obligated even though we are not.
As a pastor, I could fill my life up doing things other people think I should be doing.
Problem is, if I did so, I wouldn’t have much of a life.
So, I have to make choices. I have to prioritize. Sometimes I have to say “no.”
The idea isn’t that we should only do things we are excited about.
Taking out the trash, cleaning the dishes or changing a diaper aren’t high on our list of recreational pursuits.
But they are necessary.
The trick is figuring out which things really aren’t necessary.
And, even more importantly, which choices are actually harmful.