Monday, January 7, 2013

A Movie or Playdate? How to Decide

This is my second post of the day. Please scroll down to the Gratitude Journal for the week.

This weekend, our thirteen-year-old son Nick was faced with a paralyzing choice: go see the movie Jack Reacher with his father or invite his friends over. How in the world is a young man to make such a difficult decision? He wanted to do both.

As I watched Nick struggle with his painful choice (and, boy, did he struggle), I wondered why sometimes decisions--even simple decisions--are so hard to make.

Nick hemmed and hawwed about his choice for so long that the movie ceased to be an option. His friends came over, and they had a great afternoon.

But it got me thinking. Whenever we make a decision to do one thing, we're giving up all the other options in that moment. We're making a sacrifice.

And who likes to sacrifice? Don't we want it all? Doesn't society tell us we deserve it all, are entitled to it all?

Society lies. It lies.

We hear the message in advertising. Doesn't everyone deserve the latest iPhone, iPad, and iPod? Of course you wanted a car and not a tacky sweater for Christmas. Those two things are equal, right?

We hear it in world politics: how many countries are in deeply serious financial trouble because spending has outstripped revenue? Those governments are making necessary sacrifices, and people are unhappy.

We hear it in military action: how connected are we to the sacrifice our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen are making right now? Do you know how much they sacrifice even when they don't go to war? Trust me. Every military service member makes enormous sacrifices to do jobs the rest of us don't want to do. 

Whether your decision is benign and insignificant (sacrificing Taco Bell for McDonald's for lunch), big and scary (buying a new house, changing careers, having a baby), or life-threatening (choosing one cancer treatment over another, joining the military), it's a sacrifice.

Daily sacrifice is necessary, unavoidable, inescapable.

When we turn sacrifice into a big, bad idea, something to be avoided at all costs, instead of a standard part of everyday life, we give ourselves and our children the false impression that we can have it all, that sacrifice is always an uncomfortable, unpleasant thing to be avoided at all cost.

Through lack of practice and a sense of entitlement, we lose the ability to make good and worthy sacrifices, to make positive decisions for our own good and the good of others. We hem and haw and waste energy trying to do the impossible: have it all.

What would your grandparents' generation think?

What sacrifices have you made or do you need to make? What big decisions are looming for you that scare you or make you wonder what you're giving up? Do you struggle with little decisions? What helps you make necessary sacrifices?


  1. Very well written, Susan :) Heard a great sermon by Chuck Swindoll in which he said parents need to teach kids what denial to self is and have them live it in their lives so as not to become strictly consumers and a "give me/I deserve it" generation of entitlement. So, so true!

    We live on the cusp of a very well to do neighbourhood and our kids face it daily as kids come to school with iPads for Christmas or iPod touches and they are only in elementary school! Heaven forbid what they "expect they are entitled to" when they are in high school and then cards racked up because they have to have it "now" or they deserve it and feeding the living beyond your means issue that is paralyzing and destroying our economy and society for that matter.

    Often think everyone in NA should take a trip to Africa or another 3rd world nation and see how thankful people who live there are for the simple basics required to maintain life.

    We have sacrificed financially and don't have a lot of "extras" due to my being a stay at home mom. Though at times I wish we could have family vacations, upgrade our computers more often etc. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I struggle with little decisions in the area of "want" versus "need" before I put anything in any shopping cart, cyber or otherwise. Reminding myself that I need to think of the family as a whole and not just my desire for something. Lots of dying to self and it isn't always easy, but it has been worth it :)

  2. My husband and I call these adult decisions-very hard and often not fun. It has been educational to watch our adult son cope with these, and sometimes he makes comments that imply that he now sees why we did some of the things we did. I'm not military, but I appreciate from the outside how hard it is to leave spouses (spice?) and children to go far away and not come home for what seems like forever. And to do it for basically minimum wage-terrible! Not sure I could do it. And everyday I am grateful that they do it, God bless them all!

  3. I will never forget a doctor said to me a few years ago, always get her (our daughter) to make decisions (choices), so that making choices becomes a tad easier, and for the most part we have stuck to that.

    Having said that our 10 year old (going on 15) is, at the moment deferring to either my husband or myself, I guess, to either, have someone to blame if the outcome is not what was expected, or that we could magically make both things happen, which we are less inclined to do these days.

    Our daughter attends a non-government school, denominational and full fee paying, that was our choice and don't regret it for one moment. But that does mean that overseas holidays aren't possible and while she is completely immersed in all forms of dance, any other activity she wants to have a go at is not possible. And she has just been made aware of that, after going to the tennis in Brisbane she wants to take it up again. Alas, there is no free money to do so.

    It is possible that Nick has completely forgotten about this episode but if it comes up again, at least he knows life won't be over.

    Happy New Year to you and your family, still really enjoying all your blogs - thought provoking and very amusing.

  4. I absolutely applaud what was said in the sermon Marisa quoted: parents need to teach kids what denial to self is and have them live it in their lives.

    Society is so against that these days. I have a tooth problem and it will cost me several thousand to fix. When I tell the dentist that I will just have it pulled when it gets too bad he freaks out. He tells me, "We have credit!" Yeah, who is gonna pay the bill? Like no one thinks that part through.


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!