Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Was thinking this morning about consequences - unintended, intended, ancillary, etc.

In a conversation with a friend of mine, he stated that his ex-wife wanted to readjust a portion of their divorce settlement because financial circumstances in the real estate market had changed since the time their divorce was final. There are a lot of nuances attached to this that I do not have time to explain in this setting, so you will have to take a bit of a leap with me here. Her statement was that since the value of the home had decreased, that the amount they had settled on several years before was not valid and that he should share in the decreased value.

What struck me about this was her desire to negate one of the consequences of a divorce - an unintended one that was outside of both of their doings, but a consequence none-the-less. If they were still married, if there were still one, then they would mutually share in the decrease in value of the house. A consequence of being married and the real estate market declining - unintended consequence, but a shared consequence. But they weren't married so the consequences of the decision made many years before was hers to bear and hers alone.

This seems to be a universal concept within our culture: we desire the positive consequences of our actions, but don't want the negative consequences. When I write this, it seems to be an intuitively obvious statement intellectually and emotionally. The problem is, we don't get to make this choice.

In my years in working with people, I have found that most people focus on the positive consequences of their actions and forget to consider and weigh the negative consequences. They emotionally move toward the benefits and dismiss the drawbacks. When the negative consequences come, and they will, they attempt to get around them, attempt to push them out, deny them, etc., so they can justify their decision.

Adam and Eve are classic examples of this. They wanted to be like God and so they ate the fruit. They did not want the death that came along with it. The death of innocence, the death of weedless gardens, the death of painless child birth, the death of humanity.

I know that this is not the only factor in decision making, but I know that it is a contributor. Why else would someone start or continue to smoke knowing that it could lead to lung cancer? Why else would someone continue to eat fatty foods knowing that it could affect their cholesterol and increase their odds of a heart attack? Why else would someone continue to carry an angry persona knowing that it will affect the relationships around them?

The Bible speaks of it in these terms - the pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25). It also calls living like this foolishness (read the first few chapters of Proverbs about wisdom vs. foolishness).

Think long term. Think holistically. Think of the positive and negative consequences the next time you think about an action. Weigh them carefully and think through future scenarios. Consequences will come, the idea is to keep as many in the positive arena as possible! You can keep consequences positive by being obedient to God in every decision you make!

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