Pretty Good at Bad Decisions

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I lead a charmed life.

Seriously.

I can’t explain how good my life is. I certainly don’t deserve it.

I hesitate to use the word “blessed,” although that is how I feel. I hesitate because I know there are good people whose lives are difficult to the point of seeming impossible. It doesn’t seem fair to me to say that God has “blessed” me, when the same God hasn’t “blessed” them.

They deserve it as much as I.

Probably more.

If the book of Job has taught me anything, it’s that there is no simple explanation for why some people seem to have everything coming up roses, and others can’t seem to have even one thing go their way.

However, I do think our decisions can make a big difference.

I admit that it’s easy for me to get sort of judgmental toward some folks who haven’t been as fortunate as I have been. People who seem to be in desperate situations.

“Well, that’s what happens when you make bad decisions.”

This judgmental observation is easy because it contains a nugget of truth. Bad decisions will often have bad consequences. But here’s the thing: I’ve also made some colossally bad decisions. If you’re honest, you’ll recognize that you have, too.

I’ve come to two conclusions about bad decisions:

The 1st is that we’ve all made some.

Some may not make a big difference: “Yes, I believe I will have that last piece of pepperoni, Italian sausage and banana pepper pizza.” Then follow it up with about four scoops of ice cream just before bed. I know the consequences of this one very well. It can be pretty uncomfortable, but it’s temporary.

Others may be career ending and family destroying: “I know she’s married, and so am I, but she has made it clear that she’s available. We are two consenting adults. If no one else knows, who are we hurting?”

The 2nd is that, along with God’s grace, our lives are defined by the smart decisions we make before and after our bad decisions.

As I said, I’ve made some colossally bad decisions in my life. I won’t go into the details here, but believe me when I tell you that I deserve literally none of the good things that have come my way. None.

But I made some very smart decisions long before the colossally bad ones.

I decided that my life would be lived for Jesus. I am committed to him for the long haul. That doesn’t mean I’ve always been consistent, or that I’ve never let him down. I have. But my decision to follow him remains. Just like a child who seeks approval in the eyes of his earthly father, my life goal is for Jesus to find pleasure in me. This is an overarching decision that keeps me coming back to him, even after I’ve failed him. This is a smart decision that can guide you through, and past, the consequences of the bad decisions that you will most certainly make.

I decided very carefully and prayerfully about the woman I proposed to. It was a smart decision. (She decided to say, “yes.” She’ll have to be the one to say whether that was a smart decision or a colossally bad one.) We’ve been married for almost 43 years. We remain as committed to one another as the day we said our memorized vows. I don’t see that ever changing. The bad decisions I made could have had devastating consequences if I hadn’t been married to someone who took our vows as seriously as we both do. Other than your decision to follow Jesus, your decision concerning your marriage partner will have the biggest impact, for good or ill, on your entire life. Don’t be afraid of this decision. With the right person, it’s a good decision to make. But, don’t take it lightly.

There are probably others, but you get the idea. If you are smart about the big, over-arching decisions concerning what you want your life to be, it will help you navigate through the bad decisions.

Whenever I have made a bad decision, I always did my best afterward to make it right.

This is seldom easy, and it is sometimes simply not possible. But, if you’re ever going to recover from a colossally bad decision, you have to give it everything you’ve got.

When I’ve made my colossally bad decisions, in order to make it right I had to put my fate in the hands of another. You will, too. It might be the person you harmed, or cheated. It might be your employer. Whoever it is, if you’re going to make it right, you have to do it on their terms. They get to decide how you will make it right, or even if it’s possible. It may take a long time of rebuilding trust. Do it. Don’t short-change it, and don’t take it lightly.

This is where it becomes clear just how important those earlier decisions were. Decisions about who you marry, and who you work with and for.

If you made smart decisions before your colossally bad decision, and you make smart decisions afterward, then your life will not be defined by your bad decisions.

So, as I said earlier, there is a nugget of truth to the belief that “that’s what happens when you make bad decisions.” But it’s really not as much about the bad decisions themselves, as it is about the good decisions you’ve made before and after the colossally bad one.

You can get pretty good at bad decisions.

At least, that’s how it has worked for me.

Lloyd

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