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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Politics and Divorce - and Making Choices


How do you make decisions?  Sometimes it can be very hard.  There is lots of advice out there giving lots of suggested methods, they can become very confusing.  I wanted to raise just a few thoughts in general about this, in part because it is so much a part of divorce, and in part because of something I saw on the television recently. 

In the process of divorce, there are lots and lots of choices that have to be made, many of which are not between good and bad, but between bad and worse.  I remember times I would have liked the choices to be between issues that were black and white, but it seemed that there were an infinite number of grays instead.  
Some people make their choices based purely on self-interest.  

Others make their choices based on inflicting pain and taking vengeance.  

Some make choices based on what they think would be pleasing to God, what they think is “right,” or what they think will be most effective.  

And still others make their choices based on how the decision will affect their children.  In the process of divorce, probably most people experience a bit of all of these.

If you will bear with me, I’d like to illustrate this issue of choices from a topic current in the U.S. right now.  Recently, as this year’s election cycle was gearing up, I heard a clip from a statement President Obama made, I think this statement was made in response to a question regarding how he felt about Democrats who were distancing themselves from him in their election run.  In this election cycle, they are having to decide whether they want to align themselves with President Obama and the things he has stood for, or whether to distinguish themselves from him as having a different set of values or agenda.  And in a political race, those are the kinds of choices candidates have to make.  After acknowledging that these individuals are allies who are with him in what they vote for, he ended his comment by saying, “I tell them — I said, you do what you need to do to win.”  

When I heard that, I thought, “And that is exactly what is wrong with our political leadership these days, whether Republican, Independent, Tea Party and Democrat…any one of the groups could have made that same statement, because that is often how the candidates approach their elections.   

Now, do you recognize what that philosophy is?  It is what is known as, “The ends justify the means.”  The idea is, that if you end goal is a good thing, then it doesn't matter how you get there, all that matters is that you DO get there. 

It doesn't matter how many people you hurt or destroy, it doesn't matter whether you are honest or a liar, nothing matters except that you accomplish the end goal.  It is actually one of the most reprehensible codes of ethics around.  And it is one that far too many political candidates adhere to.  Instead of standing for something noble, the goal is to win an election, because they believe you can’t accomplish anything if you don’t win.  

So it is all about winning. 

Hence we see distorted facts, candidates whose stance changes with the winds of opinion, and a government filled with politicians but devoid of true statesmen.  Because all they care about is winning, and they will sell their souls to do it.

How about those of you who have gone through (or are going through) a divorce?  Do the ends justify the means for you?  Does all sense of principle fly out the window so that you can get what you want in the divorce process?  Have you allowed the hostile process of divorce to make you sell your soul for the hope of winning in court?

I have known far too many who have been willing to lie about assets, to manipulate court orders and interpretations, to use children as pawns and spies, to suddenly start living their lives in ways they NEVER would have before, and blame it all on the emotional upheaval of divorce.  They are selling their souls, betraying their character, and damaging themselves far more than they damage their ex or whoever they are seeking to send their rage against. 

If you are a person who stands for something, then you need to stand for that something no matter what life brings your way.  If you claim the name of Christian, then you need to take seriously the charge of scripture about the kind of person you need to be, and the choices you make in life, even when in the midst of a divorce.  (Or, if you happen to be a politician and a Christian, even in you campaign…to compromise even there means you are choosing winning an election over winning the approval of God.)

If you are facing hard choices in your life, whether related to an election, a divorce, a career, a new location…whatever, I believe that the best thing you can do in making a decision is to FIRST decide the basis out of which you will make your decisions.  If you make that basis that you are going to be a person of integrity, no matter the cost, you will have already made the hardest decision, and that decision can guide all the rest. 

Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”  

Not to argue with Shakespeare, but for many people, this statement hinges on the definition of true and what is meant by “to thine own self.”  I think his intent was what is ultimately true about yourself, the most noble part of who you are.  If you are true to the best of your character, or in Christian terms, true to the person God created you to be, then he is right, you will naturally not be false to any other person.  To be less is to diminish yourself.  So go vote this week, and as you do, let that serve as a reminder to reflect on how you go about making choices in your life.

As you make your choices, I encourage you to make choices that enlarge your character and enhance your integrity.  Let others choose the way of smallness.  Regardless of the apparent results, such as winning or losing an election, the ultimate results are that you will always be the real winner in the game of life, even if you lose lesser things along the way. 

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