Last night we had family game night and played the game of LIFE. While not going into all the details of the game itself, there are at least two points in the game where a fork in the road appears. Go one way, and one thing will happen. Go another way, and another thing will happen. What will also happen is that other possibilities of going down one path will become possible, while simultaneously denying the chance that the opportunities of the other path will ever happen. It is a choice. During the game, we can see what will happen and each player gets to choose which scenario they want to play out, however, life is not always so clear.
I have been told, and read in various books by some pretty great leaders, that a man is influenced by the people he meets and the books he reads. What never occurs to some is that the people we ultimately meet, and the books we finally read, are choices that are up to us to make.
Being one of two parents raising two daughters is not easy. Even with the great strength of my wife, together we sometimes feel we are falling short in some areas. We want to raise our daughters to be able to think for themselves, but to do so with the values my wife and I share so that their choices will reflect those values. To a large extent, we exercise great control over their environment, but have given them great latitude to explore, learn, and experience life within those boundaries. The day will quickly come though when they will slip beyond those boundaries into the greater untamed environment of the world we live in, and I think to myself, "How will I prepare them for that day?"
You see, a choice is a fork in the road. It represents a decision to be made, whether to go this way or that. Some choices are obvious when compared to a predetermined set of morals, values, or standards. Other choices are more difficult, and cause us to see and even explore the blur of grey that separates what was a black and white decision before. I want my daughters to understand the choices they make are important, because with each choice a pattern is being forged in their minds. It is a pattern that seeks to be revealed, and eventually one day will tell them who they are.
While certainly, on a purely objective level, anyone is capable of doing anything, there remains that pattern of choices behind us that lays the outline of the choices to be made before us. That pattern can tell us whether or not we are the type of person who would ever do such and such a thing. Most people will immediately recognize that at any moment the pattern can be broken and a different path chosen, but such words are of no comfort to a life lived, a rutted path carved deep, and a way of learning that dictates how things are supposed to be done.
I want to make sure my daughters understand all this. I want them to know that a choice to tell a lie today will make it easier to tell a lie tomorrow, and how a lie many years from now can cause them great harm. I want them to know that the day they slip the boundaries of the protected environment of home, they will come to many different forks in the road. While they will grow to crave and greatly desire the chance to make those choices and decisions in their own lives, what I want them to understand most is that each of those choices will belong to them not so much as a freedom, but as a responsibility. It is a responsibility to bear the consequences and outcomes of those choices personally, to understand that the choices made can also have a great impact on others, and to either enjoy the benefits of good choices or suffer under the weight of bad ones.