Ripple effect of choices

Dear Editor,

People have used the phrase, “victimless crime” over the years in describing choices they have made supposedly creating outcomes that affected only their own personal lives.  In those instances, the person believes their choices to engage in some aberrant behavior or health deflating habit reaches no further than the length of their own arm.  Yet over the past few weeks we have seen parents standing in front of national news television cameras weeping and lamenting over the loss of their child or some other tragedy caused in a chain reaction of outcomes begun by what was thought to be personal behaviors or habits because of personal choices.

One day in Chicago a nine-year-old boy was shot down and killed.  His parents faced the reality of knowing their son was gone and would never return. 

Discovered through the investigation, the police reported there was currently a dispute between two local gang members, at least two factions of the Gangster Disciples.  Of course, the child was not part of the gang, but was caught up in the darkest decisions of choice between gangs having a dispute.  The child’s stepfather could only weep and say, “He just didn’t make it. He just didn’t make it, “I’m praying for the whole city right now. I don’t want no other parent to ever go through this. I feel your pain. It’s bad and it hurts so much.”

We were inundated with almost 24-7 news from a family in Missouri regarding the killing of an 18-year-old by the local police officer.  An unending number of choices are being made in that case; very little evidence, but a lot of choices of speculation regarding what happened.  Yet when one traces the choices back from any incident to those pre-incident choices, more prudent people would agree that sometimes those choices made create a direct line to the incident that creates an outcome that “goes viral” as the saying goes.  

We face decisions each and every day. We have choices to make about almost everything. Whether we are fifteen or fifty-five the choices we make have an impact not only on ourselves, but those around us as well.

Each decision is like a link in a chain as we make choices about everything we are living as we move through our lives day by day. Our perceptions form our attitudes, and we decide for or against whatever issue we confront. Our feelings are formed either positively or negatively as we accept or reject. We become like a snowball gaining momentum and adding content to our lives as we go. It propels us into a “lifestyle” that is uniquely formed as one idea is added to another and our “worldview” emerges.

As we internalize the world around us, we form a personality and a unique identification. That personality is shaped by everyone and everything we encounter; and yet we continue to be uniquely independent because of our own personal choices. We maintain freedom in our thoughts, and we have choices to act on those thoughts as we will.

Because of that interconnectedness with ourselves, our thoughts, environmental stimuli, others in our lives and our past learning history, we inexorably touch and influence those closest to us.

Returning to the Proverb written by Solomon we can see that it really does matter about the choices we make in our lives. We influence those around us in more ways than we can imagine. This Proverb says that if we make wise choices and submit ourselves to Wisdom, with the power of God we become wise and give reason for our parents to rejoice. The obverse or counterpart is true as well: if we make foolish choices, we shun the power of God and His Wisdom and become foolish in our ways. Such a decision causes grief to our parents and those around us.

How many people are suffering and grieved because of the decisions of others?  How many people are suffering and grieved because of the personal choices they make for themselves?

Jim Killebrew

Lincoln, Illinois