So much of life is making choices. In fact, the current life you have is nothing more than the sum of the choices you have made over the course of your lifetime. The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, concluded that “there is a choice you have to make in everything that you do. So keep in mind that, in the end, the choices that you make will ultimately make you.”
Dr. Peter Kreeft is a longtime professor of philosophy at Boston College. He has written over fifty books. I am currently reading one of his older books, Making Choices. He contends that most of us decide what to do and what not to do most of the time, based on three standards:
(1) Social fads and fashions, others’ expectations, peer pressure, “everybody’s doing it”;
(2) Our feelings “it can’t be wrong if it feels so right”; and
(3) Our desire for the easiest, most pleasant, least troublesome life.
If Kreeft is right, then I think it explains why people make such poor choices and end up with a life of mediocrity. It is why a large gap exists between the life we dream of and aspire to, and the life we actually end up with.
I have found that the path that leads to a life of excellence is often very difficult, particularly at the outset…the “just getting started” piece. And it is for this reason that most people do not choose this path, and as the years go by, they complain bitterly when their lives turn out so poorly.
As I tell my children, the path that leads to a life of excellence is generally going to be difficult. But I also say, if we persist in going down difficult paths, over time those steps will become easier. Not that the nature of the task has changed, but we increase our ability to do it…whatever it is.
As John Piper has said, “All training is painful and frustrating as you develop certain skills. However, over time, as these skills become second nature, they lead to greater joy.”
This has great application to the choices we make about our spiritual life and our spiritual development. People don’t grow automatically. We have to have an intentional plan for growth and then choose to execute that plan.
Ultimately, life’s choices are critical, and so often we find ourselves in situations where we do not know what to do. And yet how wise is it to allow ourselves to be guided by social fads, feelings, or the ease of any particular path? Jesus gives us some great insight into how we should make choices, particularly if they are of a moral nature. In John 8:29, after noting that God is always with him, he says, “I always do what is pleasing to Him.”
Although it might not apply to every decision you have to make in life, a wise criteria to consider is simply, “Is this choice going to be pleasing to God?” We must remember that often the choices that are pleasing to God might be difficult or unpopular. We should then remember that God is with us and has promised never to desert us nor forsake us.