As people go through life, many do not recognize and be on familiar terms with the consequences that result from their actions. It is easy to forget that the decisions we make today could forever change our lives, our families’ lives, and the lives of several generations to come.
Studies have been conducted through entire family trees, tracing the consequences of one individual’s poor choice, such as the decision to start drinking alcohol, to abuse drugs, or to engage in sexual promiscuity. When an individual makes a bad decision, he may think it is all over as soon as he completes the deed. But that single poor choice often continues to produce a devastating harvest, long after that person is dead and gone.
Some time ago, the state of New York did a study on five generations of the Edwards family. I have read differing reports on the number of influential family members, so I will generalize it a bit. In those five generations that were studied, the researchers were able to trace 729 male descendants. Out of these 729, two hundred (200) became preachers, sixty-five (65) became Bible college teachers, thirteen (13) were university presidents, and sixty (60) were authors. Scores of them held public office, and more than one hundred (100) were lawyers and judges. Sixty (60) were doctors, a few were senators and governors, and one was vice president. All this issued from one man and woman—who loved God and set themselves to raise their children for God and to positively impact on the planet earth. We can see, from these statistics, how many sanctifying seeds were sown from that determined couple.
At the same time, the state of New York did a similar study of an ungodly posterity. This study is worthy of our focus because it is a good example of what happens if we neglect our responsibilities. Max Juke and his brothers got married and believed in living for themselves and going their own way. As with Edward’s family, five generations of their descendants were calculated. Of their 1,026 descendants (both male and female), three hundred (300) spent an average of thirteen (13) years each in penitentiary. One hundred and ninety of their descendants became public prostitutes, and one hundred were alcoholics. It was calculated, back in 1900, that it did cost the state of New York 1.2 million dollars to take care of all these wayward people. What a stark contrast to the virtuous and influential descendants of the Edward’s family.
Simply put, today’s decisions determine tomorrow’s circumstances, not only for us but for generations to follow. Let’s think about that for just a moment. How have our past decisions brought us to where we are today? If we have made some poor choices in the past, what right choices can we make, today, that would help us to get our lives back on track? Bad decisions cannot be fixed by counseling or some other form of “mental massage.” Bad decisions can only be fixed by good decisions. But it requires character to be transparent enough to acknowledge a bad decision, and then ask for wisdom and direction.
Over the years, many of us have experienced negative consequences in our lives as a result of esteeming a person above principle. We have made decisions based on our love for another person, even when those decisions violated our commitment to integrity and character.
The truth is; our commitment to integrity must never be destroyed by our love for another. We cannot allow our focus to be on others’ opinions, on their failures, or on what they did or did not do. If, instead, we focus on the unchanging standards of ethics and principle, we will, most often, make the right decisions.
Too often, we embrace this principle only when we want to do something different than what our authorities have directed. That’s when we claim, “I can’t allow my personal conscience to be violated.” But we must forget that authority structures have been established for both our protection and our provision.
There will be situations that arise in life that we may not necessarily be prepared to handle. But if we will listen to the authorities that have been placed in our lives, we will be able to glean wisdom from them and, thus, come through each situation safely.
What then is the root of every problem? The problems that you and I are facing right now—whether disease, financial lack, feeling of insecurity, low self-esteem, or vices that have plagued our families for generation—all have their origin in lack of character. Someone chose to love the way of compromise more than he or she loved the way of character.
That is the way it works in this life. My character matters to you. Your character matters to me. What we do in this life matters greatly to others, for our actions produce consequences far beyond the small circle of our own lives. We must daily ask ourselves:
Where am I allowing poor character in my life?
Have I made a poor choice that needs to be fixed today?
Am I compromising principle for the love of a person?
Does lack of character have anything to do with my lack of progress?
However painful the consequences of our wrong choices may be, they can be used to get us back on track with the plan for our lives. That is why we make a huge mistake when we bail someone out of a consequence they are facing due to poor character. In doing so, we are simply extending the life of their poor character and the resulting destruction. Although it is difficult, we must refuse to obstruct consequences that come to the life of another.
Our greatest desire may be to stop the pain that someone else is going through, but if that person never experiences the painful consequences of his poor character choices, he may never learn or grow…Come next week Monday, I am going to take further—this crucial leadership issue. Till I come your way again, see you where great leaders are found!