I am hardwired to never give up on the ones I love. But now and again I have had to step back and watch in silent agony as someone dear to me walks, with conscious decision, straight forward into a trying fire. I’ve been-there/done-that so many times now with close friends, relatives, and all three of my children at different times, thus I feel that I can speak with confidence. Toss my own personal experiences with the consequences of bad choices into the mix and I compose this with more than a measure of wisdom gained through grief.
In the past, when someone I love launches from ill-advised decisions, I have been compelled to preemptively offer my opinion. After reasonable attempts to convince the person that a pending life-choice is more than likely to have ongoing, unpleasant, perhaps devastating results, when it is clear that the person is too far gone with self-determination to be reached with logic and irrefutable evidence, and the fire walk ahead, with its odds-on repercussions that are clearly visible to others that will be absolutely unavoidable, I stop talking and start praying. Given my abysmal track record for preventing a loved one from going head-long into a bad life-choice I am more inclined nowadays to skip the talking and go right into prayer. Repeated experience has fine-tuned me in what to pray.
First, I pray that if children are involved their inescapable hardship and pain will be limited as they are pulled along, helplessly without choice, into the flames. Then I pray that in the middle of the walk, the person be humbled enough to repent so that, at the point of no return, the rest of the journey will be as much a spiritual growing experience as it is a hardship.
Finally, I pray for grace and mercy that the person emerge from the ashes wiser and equipped with the strength to deal with the surety of regret. I know first hand that regret is the most debilitating consequence of bad decision-making. Being imperfect humans we all make bad choices along the way that we then must deal with and hopefully learn from. We might experience mild regret for the woulda-coulda-shoulda-wish-I-had-or-hadna choices, but we chalk those up to lessons earned and move on. Life is an ongoing game called “Do I Or Don’t I?” Do I take the chance and risk it all? Do I take the road less traveled or the way that is paved and lighted even though it’s boring? Do I ignore the red flags and warning bells and gamble against my own future just to prove all the naysayers to be wrong? While the old adage “No guts, no glory” implies that nothing good ever comes without courage against risk, this argument does not apply in all cases and therefore cannot be used as an excuse to ignore clear and present danger signs.
We all experience regret from time to time. Unfortunately, there is a type of regret that is more than just 20/20 retrospect. Those dark actions that cannot be reversed or undone, that we examine over and over again, wondering, what was I thinking?, often become unbearably heavy ties that bind. Like an iron chain hanging from the neck, resting on the chest, this type of regret is ever present, a weight that cannot be removed. It forever calls attention to itself, often standing in the way of re-grouping, recovery, healing, and every future decision.
Narcissists and those with other mental disorders cannot experience regret, at least not like most folks. Those with abnormal mental operating systems make choices every day that negatively impact others and then they never lose a minute of sleep when the walls come tumbling down on those around them. We all look down our noses and scoff at people like that. We accept that regret is for people who have a normal conscience. However, both those with and without conscience come to identical critical moments in the process of decision making. In nearly every instance, the rationale for doing a thing or not is similar in both types; risk of consequence is overwhelmed by need to satisfy a desire. Desire is a powerful motivator in the flesh. Desire to be, to have, to do, is, in fact, the driving force behind most decisions. Even in the face of undeniable likely aftermath, desire more often than not trumps potential for regret because desire is now, regret is just a possibility “sometime”. Of course, in the case of those without conscience, self-fulfilled desire is the be all/end all. In the case of those who are capable of experiencing gut-wrenching regret, desire ends bitterly where contrition begins and eventually dissolves into self-recrimination and grief. There is no cure for this kind of regret. For a Christian there is always the possibility for repentance and redemption but there is never escape from regret which often becomes an emotional disability. We can repent and ask to be forgiven, and we can expect to receive. But regardless, humans with conscience, even acknowledging forgiveness by God, cannot forgive themselves because of the unshakable condition of regret, i.e., that which is remembered but can never be changed.
Loving someone always includes wanting the best for that person at all times, hoping that he/she never experiences trouble or grief, especially if it could be avoided. We specifically wish this for children. That’s what love does. Frankly, I’ve become weary of talking so I find I am talking less and praying more.
Another reason I have stopped talking, other than frustration at being ignored, is because I think the era of evangelizing is drawing to a close which means I also think we are nearing the point of no return, of get-it-or-don’t, and I don’t know how to explain that other than to say, some will, some won’t and it doesn’t matter whom we love, each person must make the most important choice of his/her life individually, one-on-One.
I believe we have come to a critical time that requires careful, prudent decision making now because we might not have time for the luxury of repentance and regret in leisure later for decisions made in haste fueled by desire. Later could very well be something else that we had not considered. Whether true or not, in this tenuous age, it seems to me that this possibility should be at the wheel instead of desire because if we have any choices, should they not be based on living every minute as though there might not be another? We aren't given to know when but the day of reckoning will come. At some point, before then, there surely will not be enough time to make anything but good choices. Reckoning includes accountability.
All that said, I never give up on those I love so just because I stop talking doesn’t mean that I am letting go. I am only retreating to silent prayer because prayer is, in fact, the best evidence of love and requires faith, not in the decision-making skills of the one loved, but the over-riding grace of the One Who loves.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 - 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.