….unless you are driving on a mountain road, in which case it might be better to take the curves. Jesus said “Enter by the narrow gate. For the way is wide and the path is easy that leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13.
“The way is wide and the path is easy that leads to destruction.” Jesus could have been speaking about many things, though in this case he was referring to salvation, but the words apply to any difficult decision. This is a recurring theme with me, but one that cannot be overemphasized. We human beings know this, but in our infinite capacity to rationalize the easy way, we seem to find perfectly logical reasons for putting off the hard decisions and actions, and doing what feels good and “natural.”
How do you rationalize it? What arguments allow you to reject good counsel? Let’s imagine that you are taking this post personally and want to argue with me that some decisions you recently made were just fine, even though they were shortcuts. From my experience, the rationalizations tend to follow a pattern. Do any of the following sound familiar?
1. “You don’t understand, it’s different for me.”
2. “Just one more time, then l will stop.”
3. “Who are you to judge me?”
4. “What’s the big deal? Everyone does it.”
5. “If I didn’t do it, someone else would have.”
6. “If I didn’t really need this, I wouldn’t have taken it.”
7. “I don’t have the time to do it right.”
I am also subject to rationalizing. We all are to some extent, because at the time we are doing it, our rationale seems logical. Knowing this, I discovered a pretty effective way to get beyond the expediency. Before I was shipped off to Vietnam, I did a lot of reading about crimes of expediency committed in anger or fear by some of our troops there. So I asked myself, “what might I be tempted to do over there that I couldn’t live with if I return home?” The most likely would be the taking revenge on civilians for the deaths of my buddies.
So I made a list of what I would not do, even if ordered to or tempted to. This list represented the uncrossable line. I was exposed to most of the temptations I expected. But when anger or fear kicked in I was able to live out my commitment to stay on the narrow path, because I had laid it out ahead of time, giving me enough distance from the expedient and the emotional to stay on the right side of the uncrossable line.
Lest you think this is about me bragging (giving you a great excuse to ignore the counsel), it isn’t. It’s about the strategy: Doing the right things requires a prior commitment, a path you have thought about and committed to, so that when temptation comes, you know where your line is. Perhaps this is why I have never experienced PTSD symptoms from Vietnam–I was able to avoid doing what I couldn’t have lived with.