You have already made dozens of choices today, right? The decisions began as soon as the alarm clock sounded. Get up or snooze 10 minutes. From that point on the choices just keep coming. Most are fairly unimportant, like, should I eat oatmeal or Total cereal for breakfast. The answer really doesn’t matter that much. But some choices are far more important. For example, will I take my blood pressure medicine this morning or just skip it today? Will I make it to the gym for a good session this morning or take the day off. Those choices can make a huge difference in our lives especially if repeated over and over.
Other choices do not directly impact us physically. For example, will I save and pay cash for a new flat screen or will I go ahead and put it on the VISA card. Or maybe you are looking for companionship or a spouse. Where will you look? Will you find someone at church or someone in the local watering hole? Here’s another one – the most important I think: It’s Sunday morning, will I sleep in or will I get up and attend worship? These are all critical choices which will have an impact of some kind on your life sooner or later. Let’s think about choices for a few minutes.
Making Good Choices Requires Looking Ahead
Making good choices requires you to look to the future. Our culture demands immediate or instant gratification. We do not want to wait for anything. Our parents scrimped and saved to buy the house in which we were raised yet we think our first house should be at least the size of theirs and without the scrimping and saving! We want to be made happy instantly. While instant gratification may be understandable it is crippling us!
Consider that new flat screen television. We’ll keep the numbers simple. Let’s say it is on sale for $500. You don’t have that much cash but you do have a credit card with enough limit left to buy it. So you pay for the TV, bring home and instantly start to watch your favorite shows. That is instant gratification. You are immediately made happy and satisfied. Life is good…or is it?
If you only pay the minimum each month it will take you 71 months to pay the full amount. That’s almost 6 years and probably well beyond the life of your shiny new TV. But here is the painful part. Over the course of the 71 months you will also pay back $270 in interest alone! Your new flat screen just climbed to $770.(1) That hurts. But it get’s worse. Let’s say you took that $270 in interest and put it a retirement account earning a meager 10%. Leave it until you retire, say 35 years, and you get back a whopping $8812.44 without ever adding another penny.
That’s an extreme example but it demonstrates the point that looking beyond the moment often brings great rewards.
Sometimes people meet and decide to marry in a matter of weeks. I think that is unwise although it sometimes works well. But often it ends in divorce because the people do not really know one another. Instead of living happily ever after they spend months in family court fighting over the children who were born into a loveless union. The wise choice comes about over time and is more likely to produce the storybook ending we all hope for.
Good choices look ahead to future years, not days.
Making Good Choices Demands Thought
Have you ever made a snap decision and then regretted it? I have made many. Traveling to Atlanta once I stopped into a major electronics store and bought a new GPS. I didn’t research it I didn’t ask anyone about it and I didn’t read any reviews. I soon discovered that the maps were, in some cases 10 years out of date. I called the company to complain and was told that I should have checked it out better for my area. I was stuck. The problem was clear: I didn’t about what I was doing.
A lack of clear and deliberate thought mark many of our choices. We act quickly and soon regret the decision. Grocery stores learned long ago to place certain items at the checkout counter to encourage “impulse” buying.
The solution? Slow down! When dealing with sales and purchases determine ahead of time your acceptable price and do not be moved. When the salesman comes at you with a price that is “good for today only” just smile and walk away. The price will be there tomorrow. Avoid being forced into a quick buy before you have considered the options.
When making decisions about relationships deep thought is even more important. While you may not be able to decide exactly who you will wed you can have a good idea of the kind of person you are looking for. What are the qualities you seek in a mate? Honesty? Hard work? Devotion to the Lord? Once you have identified those characteristics you are then prepared to start looking. Where would you expect to find such a person? At a casino? Maybe a club or bar? Would you expect a person who cannot hold a job to meet those characteristics? No, of course not. Relationship standards should be set high and kept high.
It may actually be good to drag your feet a bit when it comes to relationships. If there is true love then it will be there next month or even next year. But sometimes we mistake lust for love or the physical for the spiritual. Take your time and think. Here are three quick questions to ask yourself before getting deeper into a relationship.
- Does this person improve me? It’s nice to help others and try to improve them but marriage is not the place for such benevolence. Remember, people rarely change once in a relationship.
- Very specifically, what are the traits that attract me the most about this person? Once you have an answer then ask the next question, are these traits ageless or temporary? Looks fade and beauty is fleeting but the inner traits have greater permanence.
- Am I prepared for the responsibilities this relationship will bring? Love is vital but you cannot pay the light bill from a love account. You can’t buy groceries with hugs and kisses. Remember that beneath the love lie many long term responsibilities that affect other people. Are you ready?
Take your time and think!
Making Good Choices Demands Discipline
Children aren’t the only ones who need discipline. Adults need discipline. But what is exactly is discipline? Discipline is saying “no” when you want to say “yes”; it is saying “yes” when you want to say “no.”
Once you’ve given good and honest thought to your decision; once you have looked into the future to understand the implications of your decision; its time to act. Do you have the strength to walk away? Do you have the power to accept your own good decision? Not always, at least I don’t have that kind of power – yet.
Discipline is like exercise. It becomes easier with use. Once you muster the strength to discipline your wants just one time you will find greater strength for the next occasion. The hardest part is taking that very first step. Walking away without the $500 flat screen that you want so badly seems impossible but you can do it. Here are a few tips to help.
- Take a trusted person with you when you shop. They must themselves be stronger and wiser than you. They must also have the courage to stand up to you.
- Don’t say “No,” say “later.” Instead of telling yourself that you cannot have the flat screen, just tell yourself that you will come back tomorrow. Sleep on it. It’s funny how quickly the need fades as you step out of the store.
- Keep a list of victories. Keep a running total of how much money you saved by walking away. It’s a huge encouragement.
- Learn from your past. Good choices require that you look ahead but you should also remember the past. Do you remember that last relationship that went so badly? Why? What did you learn?
Maturity is a house built with broken blocks and shattered bricks. We learn because of our mistakes. Discipline grows because of determination and hard work.
Making Good Choices Demands Prayer
Of all the things we have mentioned this is most important. It steps beyond our own abilities and takes us to One who truly has the answers. The Bible pictures God as out Father and attributes to him the characteristics we look for in a good father. Consider Luke 11:11-13
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Many who read this are parents. Did you always give your children what they wanted? Of course not. We shouldn’t expect God to give us anything and everything we ask but he will give us our needs. Here’s another passage from Romans 8:28
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. “
God promises a good outcome for those who trust him. Not everything that happens will be good but it will all work out in His divine plan. So let us accept his offer of wisdom (James 1:5) and then apply that wisdom and prayer to our own lives.
Making good choices is possible with a little work and dedication. Give it a try and you will be pleased.
- Assumptions are $500 financed at 17% APR with a minimum monthly payment of 3% or $10 per month.(↩)