|Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Choices also have a varying degree of impact on our lives. For example, outside of the embarrassment that it may cause me, the choosing my favorite pair of checkered knee length tube socks to be worn with my running shorts isn't going to have the same impact that the acceptance of a job offer halfway across the country would have on me, my family and my friends.
Choices can be good or bad, beneficial or destructive, personal or corporate in nature.
However, in the current climate in which we live, I believe there has been a confusion over the categories which our choices actually fall under. Many people have fallen victim to the false assumption that the personal choices that they make are ONLY personal and therefore should not affect how others view them. Erroneously, they believe that because their choice was a personal one, the only person that it should affect is them and if it affects someone else or someone else's view of them, then that person is in the wrong for feeling this way because in the end "it doesn't affect them."
But is it true...
Let's test this theory against the most ultimate of personal choices...suicide.
(For those who have been personally touched by this tragedy, I am sorry for your loss, but I do pray that by the end of this post you will understand why this example was used.)
Suicide by nature is a personal choice but one that universally we understand affects much more than the person who commits the act. Family and friends are left mourning. Some never get over such an act committed by someone they love. They question in their minds over and over again what they could have done different to see the signs, to instill hope, to be a listening ear and wish that somehow they could have helped share what a blessing life was and how temporary the problems they were facing really were. Every thought and suggestion comes to mind to think of a way they may have intervened, no matter how they may have been viewed at the time, to preserve hope and stop them from going down this destructive path.
With suicide, there is a finality to the act that exposes the fact that choices that we make, even personal ones, have a profound impact on those whom we love and associate with.
Choices have a cost to them and a ripple effect through the relationships that we have with others.
Much is being made over the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across all 50 states. One of the mantras that I continue to run across from those sympathetic in the media and individuals on social media is that legalizing gay marriage doesn't affect you, so get over it and move on with life.
Obviously, people chanting this mantra must be thinking that gay marriage occurs only in a vacuum where the only two people it affects are the two exchanging vows. However, as with any decision, the personal choices made by these two individuals affect family and friends who have differing and conflicting views concerning this arrangement. Some think that there is nothing wrong with it and believe that it should be celebrated. Others believe that it is harmful, physically and emotionally, to the beings involved (not to mention spiritually).
So a simple evaluation of differing views concerning the personal choice of one person ends up having profound relational effects. Some parents and friends celebrate while others grieve and are torn by how to show love while withholding support for a decision they deem destructive. No one is left unaffected through this personal decision.
Apply this logic to any "personal" decision of similar nature and you end up with equal turmoil.
What about abortion? Or one's views on Planned Parenthood?
What about the use of weed for recreational purposes?
What about alcoholism?
What about pornography?
Or sex outside of marriage?
Or marrying a non-believer?
Or believing in Christ from a devout Muslim family?
Or believing in Christ in the current climate that will get one branded as intolerant, bigoted, uneducated and hateful for merely holding a contrary viewpoint of the culture?
All of these decisions are personal in nature, but have a relational cost to them no matter what side of the issue you take.
So as believers, and even as non-believers (if any are reading...and I hope that you do), can we please stop pretending that the personal choices that we make only affects ourselves? Can we stop being shocked over the fact that our strong stance on any controversial issue actually has an effect on how other people view us, even people we are closest to?
Jesus told His followers to count the cost for following Him and even showed how belief in Him would divide families. If the choice to follow Him has such far reaching ramifications to the relationships we have, how could we not believe that other important decisions we have would not have the same effect?
The next time someone tries to stop the conversation by saying..."but it doesn't affect you", feel free to share this article and maybe by the end they will understand why what they said wasn't true to begin with. And I hope that all of us will carefully begin to consider our "personal" decisions and count the cost each of those choices will inevitably have on those around us...because it doesn't just affect us.