ChildCare Action Project:
Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)
Was It a Mistake or a Poor Choice?
Thomas A. Carder
ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)
Reviewed by Dr. John D. Duncan, D. Min.
This article draws upon the King James version of the Holy Bible. Verses from the Bible are presented in blue text but the words of Christ are in red. My work is presented in black.
So many of us rely on the common self-serving statement "I made a mistake, okay!? So!? Everybody makes mistakes!" even when the "mistake" was clearly deliberate. If the mistake was deliberate, was it really a mistake or was it a poor choice? Saying "I made a mistake" seems, at least on the surface, to absolve the wrongdoer of some or all of the accountability for the wrongdoing. It also seems that to accept accountability for personal behavior is a bitter pill to swallow and that the pill-taker will only take the pill when forced to do so.
I submit that intentional unacceptable behavior is not a mistake but is indeed a matter of poor choice.
A mistake is an incorrect or inadequate performance without intent to do wrong. For example, to strike the wrong key on a keyboard is a mistake. I probably made an hundred typographical errors while preparing this article but certainly did not intend to press the wrong keys! Who would want to? To incorrectly answer a math problem is a mistake. To my knowledge I have never met anybody who intentionally wrote down the wrong answer to a math problem. Again, who would want to? To incorrectly file a letter is a mistake. Doing so creates extra work and loss of valuable time. In each of these examples of mistakes, there is no intent to do wrong. These examples are matters of inadequate performance rather than unacceptable behavior.
A poor choice involves forethought and intent. To knowingly break the posted speed limit is a choice. Anyone who can drive can read a speedometer. To use words which are hateful is a deliberate choice. That I have used unkind words to my wife was not her fault because of what she said to me -- it was my choice to utter the unkind words. That I am human, that I had a bad day, that I was sick were not to blame. To try to get even, to cheat, and to do things to irritate people are deliberate choices. To steal is a choice. To hit someone with your fist, for whatever reason, is a deliberate choice. To lie, also for whatever reason, even if a "half-truth" or a "half-lie" (if there were such things) is a matter of choice. In each of these examples, the doer's behavior was a matter of choice, not inadequate performance -- the doer is accountable for his/her behavior by virtue of the fact that the behavior was a choice.
Prayerfully, you now have an enlightened understanding of the gap between a mistake and a poor choice: between inadequate performance and unacceptable behavior.
MISTAKE POOR CHOICE
If we could each accept that unacceptable behavior is a matter of poor choices and not of mistakes, we might each gain a new embracement of accountability.
To accept accountability for our behavior and to guide our children to do likewise would likely make us each think twice before speaking and acting out. Granted, it would be of questionable sanity to expect a four-year old child to spell accountability let alone understand it. But once a child is at and past the age of accountability (strange this age should be so named), s/he should be required to own up to their behavior with sobriety and reverence. And more importantly, we as parents should always accept accountability for our behavior. How can we expect our children to learn accountability if we as parents keep "passing the buck" even in the smallest detail? The era of freedom from accountability which seems to permeate our culture has got to come to a stop.
Let me share with you some of God's expectations about our behavior and our accountability for it.
Romans 14:11-12 "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."
Apostle Paul is telling us of Jesus' warning that there will be none who escape the requirement that all shall kneel before Him and give an account of our behavior.
2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
Apostle Paul is warning us that every deed we do and word we utter in our mortal life will be shown to us before Christ: that we will not be able to hide any behavior, good or bad.
Romans 2:5-6 "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds:"
Apostle Paul pleads with us that bullheadedness, unforgiveness, and an unwillingness to remedy our unacceptable behavior will store up in us cause for God to shower upon us His wrath in judgement: that God will give us our due -- that which we deserve -- according to our deeds.
1 Peter 4:3-5 "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead."
Apostle Peter is telling us that the pagans (who were converted) lived a wild, riotous, immoral, and licentious life long enough: that those who still lived that way would heap on them tauntings and teasings and call the ex-pagans unkind names to try to shame them into returning to that lifestyle (sound familiar?): that they who lived and live irresponsibly and immorally will have to give an account of his/her unacceptable behavior to God.
Matthew 12:36-37 "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
Jesus is warning us that we shall give account for each and every careless word when we stand before Him on the day of judgement: that our sober words to others and our words of praise and glory to Him will reap justification for ourselves: that words of hate, malice, falsehood, and other words of offensive and rude nature will reap woe upon ourselves.
Hebrews 13:17 "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."
It is believed that Apostle Paul was the author of Hebrews. He was speaking of submission to leaders with righteous authority, including parents. Paul was speaking of how children are to obey their parents and submit to parental authority: that the fathers are responsible for the souls of their children and the fathers must give to God an account of their children: that children must obey their parents AND that parents must guide their children in Truth and Righteousness so the fathers may give the account with gladness, not with sorrow and shame: that it is risky for children to be disobedient.
And take deeply to heart the influence of your behavior on children.
Luke 17:2 "It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones."
Saint Luke paints a very strong picture here about child abuse and misteachings. If you were to cause a child to commit a sin or teach him/her how to sin, your accountability to the misdeed is very, very clear: that your payment in judgement (your accountability) for the misdeed will be more severe than being dragged to the bottom of the sea by a millstone tied to your neck. For those of you too young to remember a millstone, they were large flat round stones with the flat surfaces rotated against each other, driven by a waterwheel, with grain between them to be ground into meal -- each millstone weighing several hundred pounds.
God is very clear in His requirement that we each be held accountable for our behavior, good or bad. So give some serious thought before you say "I made a mistakle, okay!?"
Was it really a mistake or was it a poor choice?
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In the sweet and holy name of Jesus:
Lord, Master, Teacher, Savior, God.
Thomas A. Carder
ChildCare Action Project: Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP)
Copyright ChildCare Action Project (CAP) 1996