How should we respond to ourselves when we do very stupid things?
I read a book recently that discussed some of the philosophies concerning decision making. The author was discussing the idea that people always make decisions based on their greatest desire—always, without any exceptions. That seems to make sense to me. You figure, when we do things we don’t want to do it’s almost always to the end of either avoiding a less desirable circumstance, or a more desirable reward. When it comes to Christians, it’s a mix of that but also of shifting our desires to match God’s. So theoretically, in any given situation, our greatest desire would be for God, or more specifically, God’s will and so even temporal pleasures or displeasures would fall by the wayside.
Although I reckon there’s more to that discussion than what I’ve just summed up right there, I think the principle is true. And I can clearly see that I exhibit that in my day to day life. Here is the trouble, sometimes when I make decisions it’s obvious that my greatest desire isn’t for God, or his will. It usually isn’t long before I figure out that I’ve acted foolishly and gone off wishing for things of the world instead of God.
And so the question stands. Upon discovering my own foolish desire and subsequent sin, what is the correct response? I know that in an ideal sense, I am to run headlong to the cross. Take my sin and my foolishness to Christ and let him mend the wrongs I’ve committed. His work is already done; I couldn’t add to it, even if I wanted to. It’s for that reason that there can be no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But that still begs the question what am I to do? If you act as stupid and as often as I do, you’ll know the predicament. I don’t want to wake up tomorrow morning and act very stupidly again, but historically speaking, I likely will. This perplexity stands to stunt my growth in Christ.
Because of this indecision, every moronic step I take sets me back. Despite plenty of fodder directing otherwise, it often takes hours, sometimes even days, to re-approach God in his word or in prayer. In this way, the Catholic practice of penance seems appealing. As if I could somehow work my way back onto God’s good side. Once penance is done, I once again have a right to commune with God. Of course, I know that I never, in and of myself, have a right to commune with God and to think I could work for it is preposterous.
So I’m left without an answer to this question. What is the right thing to do when you’ve acted very stupidly and you know it? I haven’t a clue. But I’m glad that my hope doesn’t hinge on my getting it right.