I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and teen years of late. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about how productive they were in comparison to my 20s thus far. That’s a little lot sad. But anyway.
I’ve also been thinking about what I would tell myself if I could go back in time. After mulling this over for a week or so, I came to the conclusion that it would be: “Own every decision you make.”
I don’t mean to own it by flaunting (which is apparently the new definition??), but by taking ownership. As in: taking responsibility.
Something that really gets under my skin is when people say “have to.” No matter what they’re referencing, if they’re not a paralytic whose every body movement is only made possible through others, they don’t “have to” do anything. They choose to. I choose to.
Every single thing I’ve ever done has been because I chose to do it.
Even if someone has a literal gun pointed at my literal head, if I do something they demand, it is because I choose to do it to avoid death. It is not because I have to do the thing, but because I want to do it in order to live.
I’m frequently accused of seeing the world as a black and white picture.
First off all, why is it a bad thing to only see the world in black and white? Everybody loves a good black and white picture. Especially us minimalists.
The truth is: I see all the colors that other people see – all the shades of green and blue and red and yellow. I even see purple, though I wish I didn’t. But what I also see is that every color is rooted in either black or white, and therefore is, in essence, black or white.
If we boil it all down like this, understanding there is a root to everything is a pretty good way to start second-guessing your decisions.
To start taking ownership.
Because if you don’t.. well, that’s how we got purple, people.
But more seriously, similar to color, every single action is rooted in one of two things: good or evil.
This is why it is so stinking important to take ownership of our decisions!
Every decision we make results in some kind of action, and, as we all learned in grade-school science, every action has a reaction. These reactions are always a reward or consequence.
Sure, sometimes they’re both to some degree (hello shades of gray). But for the most part, reactions can be filed under one category or the other. If you’re struggling to figure out whether an action is good or evil, look at the reaction.
What is the consequence/reward of eating an entire bag of chips?
What is the consequence/reward of a catnap?
What is the consequence/reward of standing up for the downtrodden?
What is the consequence/reward of gossip?
What is the consequence/reward of holding onto an extra sweater?
What is the consequence/reward of telling your neighbor about Jesus?
Once we decide what the consequence or reward is (which may vary person to person), we can make a decision fairly quickly. It doesn’t mean that we always make the right decisions, but we do decide.
And also, there’s no one making us.
I wish there was. I wish I could blame someone else for my teenage rebellion years, or for my past with pornography, or for my choice to take out student loans for a degree I never got around to completing.
But those decisions were my own.
I chose to talk back basically every single time my mom gave me instruction.
I chose to wander onto sites I never should have been on.
I chose to ignore the Holy Spirit nudging my heart in directions other than college.
I’ve had to live with the consequences of those decisions: the tumultuous relationship I had with my mom for years, the shame of having a past and the fight against temptation to return to it when life hits lows, the payments wasted on a loan I didn’t need that could have gone to travel or ministries.
I didn’t own my decisions then. I tried to blame my relationship with mom on her behavior; honey, it takes two to fight. I tried to blame my struggle with pornography on the rampant access the world provides us through internet; honey, you can turn off the computer. I tried to blame my college choices on the pressure society puts on me to conform; honey, you were made to be transformed, not conformed.
But I do own my decisions now.
In fact, I actively choose to take ownership of my decisions. I tell people, “I don’t want to,” instead of “I can’t.” I tell people, “I’m sorry,” instead of “Well if you hadn’t done blah, then I wouldn’t have been forced to blah.”
I take ownership of my decision to drink coffee every morning.
I take ownership of my decision to take out a $23,500 loan for my car.
I take ownership of my decision to cut people out of my life who were toxic and bleeding me dry.
Because when I don’t take ownership, when I foolishly blame my life, my circumstance, my environment on someone else, I make bad decisions.
And I don’t want to live with the consequences of those bad decisions.
If I accept the responsibility of my life, my free will, my God-given right to direct the course of my future, I choose good things.
Like road trips across the country with my sister.
Like starting a Bible study with my Mormon neighbors.
Like serving God on the mission field of Ohio through Undignified Event.
Like family dinners with my mom.
Like God-talks with my brother.
Like reading the Word.
Like answering the call of God.
Like dancing for Jesus as though I may never get another chance.