When people talk about their crumbling marriage, a lost job or a destroyed friendship, they often refer back to one bad decision they made. They go on to explain that they just made a mistake. Some even call it a momentary lapse in judgment. They argue that everything hinged on that one decision.
I don’t actually believe this to be true. Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, but I think that for many, the decision that hurts them the most isn’t the first wrong decision but the follow-up decision. I like to call it the decision after the decision.
There is a famous story in the Bible about a man named Cain who was the son of Adam and Eve. Both Cain and his younger brother Abel were asked to offer a sacrifice to God. Abel’s offering was pleasing to God, but Cain’s offering was not. Because of this, Cain was mad. Cain had made a poor decision in his offering to God, but that isn’t why we remember this story. Remember, for most of us, the decision after the decision is the one that hurts us the most.
Cain had a variety of options to choose from: he could confess his sin, he could make things right, or he could get help. Unfortunately, he didn’t choose any of these. Rather than confess, Cain killed. Rather than make things right, he murdered. Instead of getting help, he hurt.
The Bible tells the story of Cain and Abel, not because of Cain’s first decision but rather the decision that followed.
I have noticed a pattern in the way that we respond to sin. Rather than confess and repent, we often commit another sin. We rationalize our decision by assuming that, since we messed up the first time, there is no reason to try and get it right the second time.
I think there is too much emphasis on making the right decision and not enough emphasis on the follow-up decision. Don’t misunderstand me. I think we should always strive to make the right decision the first time, but when we don’t, our focus needs to be on the next decision. I believe that Cain would have benefited from this lesson, and I think you and I could benefit as well.
So, what’s your next decision?