If you don’t recognize the title of this post, then you probably aren’t as giddy as I am right now. Or shall I say Geddy? It was announced this week that Rush has finally been voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This is long overdue. But, a major theme of this blog has always been that it’s never too late to do the right thing. So no bitterness, just happiness.
Let’s talk about choices. The word decide comes from Latin. The word literally meant “to cut off.” We all love to have options, but how we come about making choices reveals a lot about our character and personality. I have always been the person who can’t make a decision. When I get at that root word in the Latin, it makes sense. I hate to cut something away. I want all options on the table. (This is why a buffet is an especially dangerous thing in my particular context.)
But we can’t have all options on the table all the time. A very good negotiator or innovator will sometimes come up with ways to “lose” less in a decision than previously was thought possible. For example, someone will eventually develop the car with excellent gas mileage that can carry a family of six. For now, you have to pick efficiency or size. I’ve heard it said of shopping for a product or service: you can have fast or cheap or quality. Pick one. The best you can hope for is a rare two out of three. You NEVER get all three.
We have to prioritize. I’ve been one of those people that has often shut down in the face of too many choices. It is especially destructive when you have a number of important things to get done in a short time, and knowing you won’t get them all done, you fail to get ANY done. That’s what I am trying to overcome.
I realize that most of my shortcomings in life have been failures to make decisions. To try to keep all options available, in fact, often leads to the loss of all options. But it is so hard to cut away. We feel like the bad guy for saying “no” to something.
Yet it becomes clearer to me each day, the truth of this opening line: if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. Indecision is the lazy way of deciding, so we can delude ourselves into thinking that something is out of our control. But deciding to choose nothing is just a tacit decision for the status quo, whatever it may be. Howard Zinn, the political activist and historian titled his autobiography “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.”
Life is not some external thing that happens to us. Sure there are powers beyond our control, but not as many as we often assume there to be. A tongue twister of a book title I came across in seminary puts it right: surplus powerlessness. It’s the phenomenon of acting as if you have less control over your life than you do, and therefore using it as an excuse for inaction, indecision, failure, or any other of a host of negative energies and influences.
The 12 step program has a prayer that is useful to all people, not just addicts: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I’ve made a lot of passive choices over the years that I fooled myself into thinking were “just the way it is” as if I had no control.
I have found that to grow, I can become more decisive by defining what a choice really is. It’s not just saying no to one thing, it’s saying yes to another. In the Lutheran tradition, we have a great exposition on the 10 commandments in the small catechism. Luther writes a description for each one that demonstrates how this commandment gives life. Instead of just “don’t do this,” the admonition is revealed as a positive building up of community.
This is the mindset a person needs to deal with exercise and food. It’s not saying no to cake. It’s saying yes to a strong body. Every negative word that reeks of deprivation needs a stronger counterpart that embraces what is gained.
I have options in my life I never had before. I get to decide whether to avail myself of them now, and it’s an interesting choice to be made. For example, I was fully prepared to choose the Girls on the Run spring 5k over the third annual Annapolis TriRock Triathlon, which I really really wanted to do. I thought they would be on the same date. I had made up my mind that while my daughter had me there for her first 5k, and it would not be the end of the world if I missed the spring race, the bottom line is that the girls are more important. I was amazed that this decision was even part of my life in 2012 looking at 2013. I had come to peace with this decision, when a surprise arrived. The date for TriRock Annapolis was announced, and it is a week earlier this year. I can do both. Forget having the cake and eating it too, I can coach the girls and have my own race too. Sometimes it works out that way. Often times it doesn’t. We need to be ready to cut away some things. It’s hardest when they are good things. But sometimes the choice must be made.
I will continue to make some wrong choices and some right choices through the rest of my life. All I can hope for is wisdom in the decisions, and most of all, an active, deliberate choosing. No more acting like I’m powerless where I am not. No more passivity. I will choose a path that’s clear. I will choose free will.