The Greatest Danger

I love good questions; both answering them, and hearing others thoughtfully try. I have often asked, “what is your greatest fear?” For the longest time, I considered mine to be letting down someone who depends on me; someone who trusts me and should trust me…  But another has pervaded my thought.

I now think what scare me most is something more subtle and much more personal. It happens inside our minds and by our own choice. Put simply, it is desensitization. Whether to sin, to the present, or any other good thing, it is what allows us to act in opposition to deeper, truer understanding. 

Desensitization is a process. Just as self-discipline is like a muscle that strengthens with consistent use, every single time we perform below what we truly desire, we lower our threshold for what we find satisfactory. Over time, what we once held in high esteem becomes negatable. Through many tiny offenses to our sense of purpose or our moral code, we become desensitized.

Desensitization is weakness. One bad choice makes it easier to follow up with more choices that you know you will regret later. The process of desensitization stands in oppositions to the process of strengthening self-will through exerting initiative, and one of these processes is always working. It sets us apart. You will find that the most intrinsically powerful people you know of are function on the high side of the spectrum. They have learned to recognize the danger in the small things where they are prone to rationalize, and they have learned to hold to a higher standard.

The idea that we can reach a pre-determined point and stay there is a myth. It’s not enough to aim for the minimum threshold with which we are comfortable because in our fallen state, we will make mistakes, and occasionally underachieve. If we are not actively trying to improve, we are falling backwards. It may be so gradual as to be practically incomprehensible, but if not caught, the tragedy can be limitless.

It is difficult to recognize where we have become latent. We teach ourselves to either heed or disregard the conscience of our subconscious over a lifetime. To ignore the slightest sensation that something is wrong, facilitates the eventual feeling that nothing is wrong, which is why it is so difficult to recognize that you began ignoring it the first place! To wake up to the error of your ways requires intense introspection, perceptivity, or a strong—often painful—stimulus.

Desensitization is the process by which we take our blessings for granted. It contributes to every rationalization or excuse we make.

Advertisements

Excuses

In my opinion, there is a continuum upon which each person falls. On one end is someone who finds and uses the excuses available for their situation, and on the other end is someone who sees themselves, their responsibilities and abilities in the same way, despite their circumstances. These people, rather than using their challenge to excuse under-achievement, hold themselves accountable to what they desire and know they can become. These are the people you hear about who were born in abject poverty, into broken homes with seemingly no opportunity; yet became surgeons, talk show hosts, politicians or supreme court judges; revered by the public and renowned for rising above their circumstances.

Looking further down the continuum you must realize that the excuses I speak of are most often completely acceptable. For example, say that someone is religious, loves God and is highly involved in church. But one day their house burns down with one of their children inside. This person falls completely away from their religion, with the statement, “I can’t believe in a God who would let this happen.” Few would judge this person for having such feelings and reacting in such a way.  Now to change perspective, let’s look back in the lives of many extraordinary people. You will see that disasters have victimized them, but when life was too hard for them to stand, they knelt. It’s very simple. They didn’t use their challenge as an excuse. In their situation with the excuse available to them, no one would have judged them for falling into depression, becoming dependent or being angry. But they didn’t. They held themselves to a higher standard inside. That is what makes someone truly extraordinary.

Seeing that few people are in as advanced a position on this continuum as Ben Carson or Luke Skywalker, it can be assumed that most of us fall far beneath, finding and using excuses every day, every hour or every minute of our lives. Usually these are tiny and arguably insignificant, but it is out of small things that great things come to pass. Spiritual downfall could begin with sleeping rather than attending early morning seminary because that paper kept you up till 3am and you are “so tired.” It’s so important to understand that every time we choose to act in a certain way, every time we make such an excuse, it’s easier the next time. Each time we reject an excuse our initiative and will  is strengthened.

In the same way we recognize the amazing individuals who don’t make excuses even when it’s most understandable, we can’t help but notice and often judge those who have everything going for them, and yet make choices that cause them to fall terribly short, like the wayward teenager with awesome parents, taught truth from infancy, but who somehow chose a path of rebellion, darkness and fleeting pleasure. You wonder how they impossibly took all their blessings for granted. How could they be so short-sighted?  Sometimes we don’t consider that we make excuses too. You see, we’re all capable of extraordinary status, but we are making excuses that hold us back. The excuse is what causes procrastination, and allows us to be content.

Think of the freedom you enjoy, the truth you’ve been taught and the opportunities you have. For just a moment, don’t take it for granted that you eat three meals a day. Now decide if you are using an excuse to define what you can do. We all can do better and it’s tough, but it’s supposed to be. We must first be faithful in the little things before God can entrust us with more.  Your progression is not designed to ever end. Every step you take forward makes the next step easier, and when life does get too hard to stand, kneel. Our challenges allow God to bless us so much more than he could otherwise.