Santa Clarita Signal • Opinion Column • Ethically Speaking • July 6, 2014
The Cul-de-sac of Bad Choices
David W. Hegg
Part of the joy, and most of the misery, of my job as a pastor is being with folks when they in trouble, surrounded by the carnage of poor choices, and facing what appear to be insurmountable obstacles. It could be relationship problems in their marriages or with kids. Sometimes it has to do with addictions or criminal activity, both of which have the capacity to take away the freedom of those involved. I also find myself trying to help those in financial freefall, and others whose quality of life is seriously eroded through an almost total lack of self-discipline.
What all these have in common is they find themselves in the cul-de-sac of horrible choices. By this I mean the state you’ll end up in if you travel down the road of bad choice after bad choice. Soon you will find yourself in that horrible place where there are no good choices left. The only options you have are all painful simply because you have passed the point where one somewhat good choice could have stopped your descent into misery. And now, the only good option you have is painful and humiliating. It will mean humbling yourself before all those you have let down and hurt deeply. It will mean finally being scared to death at the person you have become. And lastly it will mean admitting that you are unable to help yourself in any way, and are totally dependent on outside help. But few people choose to take this hard first step out of the cul-de-sac.
Take the person who builds a drug habit for example. As they slide deeper and deeper into dependency they will often start channeling their energy into getting money from those who care about them in order to feed their habit. In the same way, those whose own financial mismanagement lands them in huge debt will often plead with those that love them for a loan to make things right. And, in marriages, I regularly see spouses who have eroded their relationship through neglect and self-centeredness reaching out for help just to look good. Seldom do those in the cul-de-sac take personal responsibility for their actions.
As I sit with these folks, it is heart wrenching to hear their stories. Even more, it is devastating when they come to the realization that their plight is a result of their own choices, and now they may well be past the point of any return to normalcy. Take the 19 year old boy who, on a lark, decided to steal from his employer and now faces a stint in prison on a felony conviction. Take the 53 year old woman whose alcohol impaired driving was responsible for the car accident that killed one of her passengers. And I could go on and on.
All too often it feels to me as though lives are like a 2 liter bottle of soda. People shake them up hard, pop the top and watch the liquid spray out all over the room. Then they hand the bottle to me as say “Pastor, we’ve come to you to help us get our lives back in the bottle, like they used to be, all nice and pretty.”
So, why am I writing this? Simply because some of you reading this are already walking down the road of bad choices. And others of you are watching someone near you traveling that same road. In either event, it is time to stop. We all know if we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve got. Bad choices are never remedied with more bad choices. If you’re heading toward the cul-de-sac, stop now, and turn around, and make one good choice today, and another tomorrow, and another the day after that. . And if you’re already at the place where all the good choices have vanished, admit it, stop playing games with yourself, and plead for help from those who are in the best place to offer it. Be willing to do whatever it takes to get back to the place where you have the option to make some good choices, and make your life mean something once again. No matter what else the future holds, make it your goal to stay far away from the cul-de-sac.