Nearly without exception, ruined relationships, financial ruin or moral failure will be the result of small choices that seemed benign at first, but grew little by little into bigger and more far-reaching compromises.
Often the downward spiral starts with some internal pain that longs to be soothed. An emptiness waiting to be filled. Human nature has an uncanny way of compensating for this internal gnawing. The heart makes deals with the mind to justify each choice, eventually shifting a person’s path completely off-course one deceiving moment at a time.
Here is the good news. Healthy spiritual lives are built in exactly the same way — small daily choices made one moment at a time. When the familiar internal gnawing begins, a healthy heart learns to seek wisdom rather than running the other way and honesty trumps the desire to hide. Small victories, one at a time, keep a life moving TOWARD the Source of joy rather than away from Him.
An example from my own life is… I really like to be funny. That alone isn’t a big deal, right? But the problem lies deep in my heart. I tend to use humor in ways that aren’t healthy. Not always, but often enough. My particular brand of humor can quickly turn snarky, or sarcastic, or unwise, or simply unnecessary. I’ve had to become more honest with myself and admit that I use humor to mask less attractive emotions. Being funny, for me, is a coping tool that – when not applied with wisdom – reflects an undisciplined, unfiltered heart.
I can’t justify mean words, or hateful attacks…those are so blatantly wrong. But being funny, I tell myself, is so much better. I can even talk myself into believing that words could really be classified three ways: right, wrong and funny – as if “funny” is off-limits from being a wrong choice.
It is such a subtle thing. It would seem that a desire to be funny is far less damaging than a desire for alcohol, or greed, or sexual sin. But when anything, regardless of how benign it seems, gets in the way of me living authentically and speaking the truth in love… it needs to go. When I’ve got something funny to say at someone else’s expense, or which doesn’t serve any better purpose than making someone laugh, it is time to identify what real underlying emotions are driving my need to be funny.
Dealing with real emotions in a healthy way, rather than masking them in humor, is a better habit than flying off at the mouth. But the bonus is…the discipline applied to my speech invariably shows up in other areas of my life in positive ways.
The big picture of our life is painted by the small brushstrokes we make each moment of each day. Owning every small, intentional brush stroke gives us the best possible chance of loving the finished work of art when the masterpiece is complete at last.