As I was climbing out of bed on this cold 16-degree morning I asked myself: “Do I like doing this?” The answer was absolutely not. I am not even sure I really wanted to, I sort of did and I sort of didn’t. Did I need to do this? Well, probably I didn’t really need to get out in the cold weather and travel five mile to where I work out, but I knew it would be good for me. What is more, not to do it would set up a bad habit I don’t want to get in to. Exercise is healthy and at my age I have to do all the healthy stuff I can. It did give me an opportunity to reflect on the differences between what I like what I want and what I need.
We live in a world that likes to paint things in black and white to limit options to yes and no and right and wrong. But actually few things are that simple. Unlike being pregnant we can be sort of gay. Sexuality is a continuum and at the opposite ends are gay and straight but most of us lie somewhere in between. Sexual preference is an inherited characteristic, which means we are born with it. But that isn’t the end of it. We can indulge ourselves, or we can set limits on ourselves. Like many other characteristics that we inherit, we can develop them or not. Everyone born with a high intellect is not intellectual. Those who are born with great strength do not always turn out to be physical powerhouses. What we inherit can be used in a positive or a negative way. All of this involves choice, our choice. If I were born with limited intelligence I am never going to be a mental giant. On the other hand, if I was gifted in this way I can choose not to use my intelligence and develop it. Granted our choices may be limited but we have choice.
I am tempted to choose only what I like, what pleases me. While this is not necessarily wrong or immoral it is choosing out of our most basic instinct. We can choose what we want, which may not be pleasant but we do it for a greater good. I choose to exercise not because I find it pleasant (sometimes I do, usually not) but because it promotes good health, which in the long run should give me a longer and happier life (at least that is what I tell myself as I do those sit ups). We can choose to do things because we really need to do them. My stepmother chose not to walk though at first she was capable of doing that. Now she has lost the use of her muscles and physically finds it very difficult to do the simplest actions unassisted. She has gotten to the point where she no longer “wants” to eat. Obviously whether she wants to or not she needs to do these things.
Sometimes I think we get all confused about what we like, what we want, and what we need. In asking others for things we sometimes put it in terms of need rather than in terms of like or want. I need a beer. No, I would like to have a beer, in fact I want a beer, but I don’t NEED a beer. We could blame the advertising industry for seducing us into believing we can’t live without a car, or computer, toothpaste, or deodorant (well maybe we do need deodorants). But actually advertisements don’t make us believe anything, they simply suggest. Can I live without pornography? Of course, but do I have to do so, probably not. It is simply a matter of the choices we make. There are those times when we could use some help in making the choices we have to make. Sometimes it really is a choice between two evils. On the other hand, it may simply what we perceive evil to be.
There are plenty of professionals who can guide us when the decision making gets tough, but I believe we need to reserve that source for really serious issues. Family, friends, other knowledgeable people can give us the information we need to make wise choices. For the most part, wise choice depends on having the best information available to be able to make choices that benefit others and us. The problem is that we are either too proud or too ignorant to ask. I am pretty good in finding my way around places that I need to get to. Sometimes I really don’t have a clue. When I was younger it was very difficult for me to ask directions. Now, at the first sign I screwed up, I get out of the car and ask. I think that is a bit unusual. I think the older we get the more we believe we have all the answers. I have to work at fighting that attitude. No one has all the answers, in fact sometimes I don’t even know what the question is. Asking others for help is not the same thing as asking them to make a decision for us. I want all the help I can get, but I want to (perhaps in a sense I need to) make the final decision myself.
We can find all kinds of reasons to explain to ourselves why we can’t decide or why we made the wrong decision. But in the last analysis I believe that we are responsible to ourselves and to grow into whom God intended us to be we have to accept responsibility for our own decisions and actions. While there are many things that can influence us, we have to reserve the right to make our own decisions. Hopefully they will be made for healthiest and happiest reasons.