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"Think twice" encouragements for women to help them make smart choices in life.
Popular author and conference speaker Jan Silvious is back with savvy advice for women to help them deal with the important choices they face every day. Realizing choices bring consequences, she shares the value of the second ...
"Think twice" encouragements for women to help them make smart choices in life.
Popular author and conference speaker Jan Silvious is back with savvy advice for women to help them deal with the important choices they face every day. Realizing choices bring consequences, she shares the value of the second look, the second perspective, and the second consideration as well as the significance of acknowledging red flags. Jan offers biblically sound, psychologically positive wisdom for smart choices in 8 critical areas:
Smart Girls Think Twice About Consequences
My mother and daddy met in a class at business college. He had a limited education but thick, dark hair and loads of wit and charm. She was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty who doggedly put herself through college despite suffering the loss of her mother at the age of eighteen. Both were trying to better their chances for employment by taking the business course, but the biggest bonus to come out of that class was their meeting one another.
Each day they shared a package of crackers and a Coca-Cola for lunch. This bonded them together on a life journey that would last more than fifty-five years. Daddy often told me that when Mother walked into the classroom, he said to himself, "I'm going to marry that woman"-and marry her he did. I, their only child, was born five years later. The effects of the choices they made way back then continue to this very day.
That's the way of choices: they always have consequences, many of which last longer than we initially could imagine. The word consequences sounds as if it always involves punishment, but it doesn't. Consequences are simply the inevitable results of a choice, whether positive or negative. Every choice we make will bring consequences of some kind.
I learned about this relationship between choice and consequence at an early age by watching as my parents made big choices with great hopes and often huge consequences. In their early years, they lived hand to mouth. Mother stayed home to care for me and to make a home out of our tiny house. Daddy worked at a filling station owned by Mr. B. O. Jennings. (I love that name.) He pumped gas, washed car windows, changed oil and tires, and kept track of the money, a small percentage of which comprised his salary. It soon became clear that the money my dad brought in just wasn't enough for our family. My parents loved each other, and they loved me, but they did not love the financial future they saw stretching before them. So they thought about making a life change, and then they thought again. They came to the conclusion that moving where there were good jobs was the best choice for them. Daddy quit his job in Birmingham, Alabama, and got on a bus headed north.
He arrived in Washington DC on a cold January day. For more than two weeks he walked the streets answering ads and looking anywhere he could for work, but no job offers were made. Though lonely and discouraged, he had no intention of giving up. He had thought once, he had thought twice, and the choice had been made. His settled conviction gave him a certain confidence. So he called and asked my mother to catch the bus to Washington and come be with him. She did just that, and with my little two-year-old self in tow, she arrived at the Greyhound bus station after an all-night ride to find Daddy waiting with open arms to take us to the rented room where we would make our new home together.
He had found a one-room flat with a double bed and two overstuffed chairs that could be pushed together to make a wonderful crib. There was no refrigerator, but a handsome windowsill would keep my milk cold. There was no stove, but we had a hot plate to warm soup and a great little mom-and-pop restaurant waited just around the corner. What more could we need? Oh yes, there was a bathroom-down the hall!
My parents had considered their situation and made a life-changing choice, and we lived with the consequences of that choice from then on.
As a consequence of my parents' choice, not only did we live for a time in a one-room flat but I got to grow up near the nation's capital, surrounded by museums, art galleries, libraries, streetcars, and buses. I could go and see just about anything my curious mind wanted to take in.
As a consequence of my parents' choice, my dad ultimately found a good job and was able to provide a modest but stable income for our family for his entire working life.
As a consequence of my parents' choice, my mother met a school principal who invited her to teach in an elementary school. For more than twenty years, my mother taught fifth grade in an excellent school system.
As a consequence of my parents' choice, I was able to gain a college education without struggling to pay for it.
As a consequence of my parents' choice, I was brought up in a solid, loving church where I heard the Word of God on a regular basis. (It took a while for the consequences of that choice to be revealed, but it was an outcome of their choice, nonetheless.)
As I watched, listened, and experienced my parents' journey, I became intimately acquainted with the reality that choices must be made. I learned that it is impossible to go through life without deciding between the possibilities that wait behind Doors One, Two, and Three. Trying to play it safe by only looking at the Doors of Opportunity and declining to fling one open simply sets in motion a different set of consequences. We cannot avoid making choices; it's an integral part of being human that goes back to the very beginning of time. God purposefully left choice in our hands. He could have made us little automatons, but instead He chose to give us free will, leaving us with the responsibility and the pleasure of making our own decisions.
The First Taste of Consequences
Eve, of Adam and Eve fame, was the first girl in all of history to make a choice-and the first to face the consequences of that choice. Let's take a quick look at the drama that played out in the garden of Eden so long ago.
The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal GOD had made. He spoke to the Woman: "Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?" The Woman said to the serpent, "Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It's only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'Don't eat from it; don't even touch it or you'll die.'" (Gen. 3:1-3 MSG)
Sounds to me like God had given Adam and Eve a simple, easy-to-follow command with clear and established consequences for disobedience. Unfortunately, Eve moved on impulse rather than thinking twice.
The serpent told the Woman, "You won't die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil." When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it-she'd know everything!-she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate. (Gen. 3:4-6 MSG)
Eve chose poorly and soon discovered she would pay a high price in negative consequences.
God said, ... "Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?" The Man said, "The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it." God said to the Woman, "What is this that you've done?" "The serpent seduced me," she said, "and I ate." (Gen. 3:11-13 MSG)
Ah, the blame game. Eve had failed in making the most important choice of her life, and Adam had joined in her folly. Each offered excuses and pointed at someone else to bear the blame for the fiasco, but that did not change the consequences: death had come-death to all they had, all they had dreamed of, and all they had relied on. It seemed they had assumed God would always keep them in the manner to which they had become accustomed, but He did not alter the appointed consequences for their blatant disobedience just because they were tempted by the enemy. They still bore the responsibility for their choice.
He told the Woman: "I'll multiply your pains in childbirth; you'll give birth to your babies in pain. You'll want to please your husband, but he'll lord it over you." He told the Man: "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree That I commanded you not to eat from, 'Don't eat from this tree,' The very ground is cursed because of you; getting food from the ground Will be as painful as having babies is for your wife; you'll be working in pain all your life long." (Gen. 3:16-17 MSG)
Choices inevitably bring consequences; it was quite a lesson for the first girl in history to learn. Sometimes it's easy to look at others, particularly our grandmother Eve, and think that, given the opportunity, we would not have fallen for the manipulations of the enemy. And yet when it comes to our own choices, we find that thinking twice and being smart is not as easy as it may seem. Like Eve, we find ourselves tempted to respond on impulse and rush headlong into a devastating decision. "For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions" (1 John 2:16).
Our cravings and our pride make good choices difficult, especially if we haven't decided ahead of time what principles will guide our decision-making process. It's hard to choose against eating that luscious piece of cake even though we know it will undermine our attempts to slim down. It's hard to put that darling outfit back on the store hanger when it fits perfectly but is out of our price range. And it's hard to say no to a great job offer that strokes the ego even when we know it would take us away during a time when our kids and husbands need us. That's why the second thought, that deeper consideration of potential consequences, is so crucial to making the best choices possible. As the master seamstress reminds her student, "Measure twice, cut once!" Choice without regret is a wonderful thing.
Compound Interest and Poor Choices
When it comes to choices, we have to be aware of the principle of compound interest. As with a successful investment, each positive choice you make increases your capital as a Smart Girl and puts you in a better position to make future choices. By contrast, every poor choice, like an ever-growing debt, accrues interest that must be paid.
Shannon knows this better than most. As an idealistic fifteen-year-old, she thought she knew everything. She knew she loved Jim, who was twenty, but she also knew her parents wouldn't let her get married. She believed that if she slept with him, he would stay around until she was old enough to marry. She didn't factor in the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Eventually a strange pain down one leg and flu-like symptoms prompted a visit to her doctor. When he said, "You have herpes simplex virus," her teenage mind couldn't understand what that meant. So the doctor told her the painful truth about how she'd become infected and the lack of a cure. She knew something was terribly wrong, but she had no idea then how it would affect her life. She stopped seeing Jim, disgusted with herself and disgusted with him. He tucked tail and willingly ran, but she was left with the consequences.
Now at age thirty Shannon knows all too well the effects of her choice because she's still paying compound interest on the consequences of sleeping with Jim. She's had several herpes outbreaks over the years since her diagnosis although they have become less severe. She grew up, went off to college, and became a successful marketing executive with a large firm.
Then a year or so ago she met the love of her life at church. Eric is handsome and godly. He treats her like a queen, and she adores him. They're talking about marriage, but she knows that before she can say yes, she will have to face up to telling him about her past choice and the resulting consequences. She'll have to say, "I'd love to marry you, but you need to know that I have a sexually transmitted disease that can affect you." It feels overwhelming, and Shannon is torn about what to do. What will Eric think? Is he going to want to have "protected" sex for the rest of their married lives? Will he want her to carry his children? Should she tell him that any children born to her will need to be specially protected during birth to prevent them from contracting her disease? Since she hasn't had an outbreak in a couple of years, is it safe not to tell him and just hope for the best? What would she do if he found out? What would she do if she infected him?
Oh, the mortification of a bad choice and, oh, the ongoing effects of compound interest. As negative consequences pile up, it can quickly feel as if you'll always be trapped in debt to the past. The simple answer seems complex, the hard decision seems impossible, and the temptation to pile on more poor choices becomes almost overwhelming. The only way to resist is to deliberately choose to think twice and carefully weigh the consequences.
To break the cycle before she makes another poor choice, Shannon needs to Stop and examine the situation, Look to identify the issues, Listen for insight from the Lord, and then Look Again as she waits for the Lord to give her châkam. With the choice she makes, either she will prove herself a Smart Girl with an intelligent attitude toward life or she will revert to the old, immature thinking that brought about the consequence with its compound interest in the first place.
What Consequences Might You Be Overlooking?
I recently had dinner with a group of women who could hold master's degrees from the School of Bad Choices and Miserable Consequences. In the setting of a church fellowship hall, they looked just like any group of friends enjoying a girls' night out. They bantered, laughed, and talked about clothes, children, and men as girlfriends often do. But these seemingly lighthearted women were newly released from our local corrections facility, otherwise known as a prison.
At one point I asked a question that sobered the conversation: "Knowing what you know now, what would you think twice about next time? What choices would you make differently?"
A hand shot up at the back of the room. "I'd think twice about wanting to experience drugs. I just had to try them, and I ended up on the streets. I became a prostitute. They are so strong, so powerful. Even tonight I want to get high."
Another hand went up. "I thought I had to be independent so early. I chose to leave home, to be on my own."
And another hand. "I chose sex at an early age. I never thought of the consequences. It was just what I wanted to do!"
The next woman acknowledged, "I never thought the things I was doing would have an effect on my children. Now I know I hurt them with my choices. But I never gave it a second thought until I went to prison and I saw their pain."
The hands just kept coming. "I should have thought about who I was hanging out with."
"I thought I could handle everything myself."
"I should have thought twice about the financial commitments I made."
"I should have thought about how to deal with temptation. I didn't think I could say no."
The lives of these women perfectly illustrate the maxim that "sin will take you farther than you ever intended to stray, cost you more than you ever intended to pay, and keep you longer than you ever intended to stay." Each one had paid dearly for her failure to think twice by enduring the harsh consequences of her choices. But, of course, you don't have to end up in prison to experience the devastating penalties of compound interest on poor choices.
More than fifty percent of the marriages in this country reportedly end in divorce. Could thinking twice have helped some of those women avoid the pain of such a division-or led them to avoid a painful marriage to begin with? Countless children are vulnerable because someone hasn't thought twice about the danger of an overly interested neighbor, relative, or teacher. What devastating consequences could be headed off by someone asking, "What's going on?" or "Is this an appropriate interaction?" Many friendships have ended in disappointment because too much was shared too soon. A second thought before "telling all" would have spared some women the hurt of realizing that certain things should be kept private. The Internet has made it all too easy to strike up inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, and women quickly find themselves snared by the tentacles of an emotional affair-and sometimes more. Consider the heartache that could be avoided by thinking twice about the potentially disastrous effects of cyberflirting.
Excerpted from smart girls think twice by JAN SILVIOUS Copyright © 2007 by Jan Silvious. Excerpted by permission.
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