Saturday, June 7, 2014

the myth of inconsequential choices

The idea of inconsequential choices has been on my mind for at least a week now. Time to blog!

Examine the following quote from (emphasis mine):

 Every day you have choices to make. Some of those choices don’t have much to do with your eternal salvation (“What color shirt should I wear?”), and some of them have everything to do with it (“Should I break this commandment?”). You may sometimes wonder, “Do my choices really matter?” Or you may even think, “If no one knows what I’m doing, do my decisions really affect anyone?” The answer is yes! Decisions do matter.
 "Some choices don't have much to do with your eternal salvation." That is the concept I've been pondering for days now. Or longer.

This is what I have noticed: even our seemingly inconsequential choices affect others.

I offer an example. The other day, I was having a hard day, and I was praying for some kind of answer or encouragement, and I turned onto the highway, and immediately a truck passed me with the message I needed written on the side of it.

A different day, I was struggling with my change of heart crisis, and a woman I didn't know just walked up to me and made an offhand comment that completely validated everything I thought I had been feeling, revelation-wise. To her, it was probably just another sentence that she said that day. To me, it was this huge big deal.

Years ago, a friend passed me in the hall at church and asked if I might be willing to attend a different Sunday School class for once. I agreed. And it totally changed my life. I recently wrote that friend a thank you note, because that one decision on his part so drastically altered my life path (long story). And he was just befuddled, because to him this was a minor decision. 

I've had answers to prayers come on other people's T-shirts. I've had my life changed by little moments I've observed from other people's normal lives. These tiny choices, the ones that appear not to affect our eternal salvation, can actually be pivotally important--if not in our own lives, than in the lives of others.

Consider the story that starts off this article on dreams: here, the author recounts a moment from a sacrament meeting talk that the speaker clearly meant as kind of a throwaway joke. And yet, the speaker's offhand story about a dream he had impacted the author months later. Even the tiny things we do are noticed--if not by us, than by others, and they can have much, much larger effects than we could ever realize.

I guess this is related to the Butterfly Effect. But I don't know that many people associate the Butterfly Effect with, say, the decision to wear a red shirt instead of a blue shirt today.

But what if you passed someone today who had been praying, who had told God that the sign they needed to make the right choice was to see someone in a red shirt. And then they saw you, who chose to wear a red shirt just because you felt like it. But it changed the other person's life forever.

This stuff happens. I know it happens because I pray for signs like this all the time, and I always get them, and the other people involved don't even know.

So are there really any inconsequential choices?

Are there really any choices that don't affect our eternal life?

Because someday, I'm going to find the guy who decided to write those words on the back of his truck, and thank him for sending me the message that changed my life that day. And someday I'll thank that woman who came up to me and commented on the day in such a way that it perfectly aligned with my personal struggles.

There are so many people in my life who were only there for a few seconds, people whose names I don't even know, whose seemingly-minor life choices have permanently altered the way I view the world. I owe them debts of gratitude and in the eternities I will find them and thank them.

In the meantime, though, this has some implications--namely, that every thing we do, even the small stuff, has the potential to radically alter the lives of others.

What does this mean? Should we stress over every choice of clothing? Every thing we say?

My personal opinion on it all is this: no, we should not stress about those seemingly trivial choices.

However, we should be actively striving to live our lives so close to Christ that even our seemingly trivial decisions can be easily affected by our association with Him.

We can never know what seemingly minor decisions can affect others in profound ways.

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