“You don’t have to…”
I say this to my friends all the time, especially when the obligation being referenced is mentioned with an agonizing tone of dread and torture.
After hearing them out, my response is almost always, “well, you don’t havvvve to!” They usually give me the side eye or roll their eyes at me. I’m quite positive I irritate them every time I say it, but it’s true! We don’t HAVE to do anything!!
I’m currently reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” for the first time (I know, I’m mad late to the party). In the book, author and organizational genius, Franklin Covey said, “Never say you have to.”
I grinned from ear to ear. Could this be? When I’m saying this to my friends all the time it’s true? You mean there’s a whole philosophy behind my haphazard rationale?!
And there is.
I’m a big words person. Which means I’m intentional about my word choices and I often over analyze the word choices of others. About half of you just decided you don’t want to be my friend anymore, it’s cool, but hear me out.
Our entire life is built around choices. If we don’t realize that, we become people who view God as a tyrant. We also become people who are unable to take responsibility for ourselves because everything becomes a result of some external factor that’s beyond our control.
The fact is: Every decision we make is a choice weighed between consequences.
I’ll use my current life as an example. I have friends from all over coming into town for MegaFest, but MegaFest conflicts with my work schedule. I have two choices (really more like 4, but for the simplicity of this example, we’ll stick with 2):
- Skip MegaFest and see friends after work
- Take off work to connect with friends and attend MegaFest
When weighing my options, there are natural consequences to both. A consequence isn’t necessarily negative, it’s simply an affect or result of a decision…I actually just typed that without looking up the definition to confirm that so let me pause and make sure I didn’t just lie for no reason.
Ok yes, all is accurate and true so far! Ok, so the natural consequence to option 1 would be I would miss out on MegaFest and I wouldn’t get to hang with so many of my peeps. The natural consequence to option 2 is that I wouldn’t get any work done, my responsibilities at work would be left unhandled and someone would have to fill in for me to produce the show I’m supposed to produce tomorrow.
In light of the natural consequences of each option, I was able to make the decision to skip MegaFest and connect with friends after work hours, when/if possible.
This is pretty much basic reasoning and it’s also how we govern every decision we make.
When we don’t process life through the lens of choice, things get pretty interesting…and dark.
I think we slowly devalue our worth.
I think our attitudes change for the worst.
I think we view things as a duty and an obligation verses a choice.
I think it makes our lives much less enjoyable.
I’ll wrap this up with some spiritual implication. Many people view Christianity as a “have to” or the instructions of God as a “have to.”
I had to make a decision to let go of something recently that was hard for me to release because I really wanted to do it, but I knew God was telling me “no, not yet.” I didn’t want to let it go, but I also didn’t have to let it go. I very well could’ve held on to this thing. So why did I let it go?
I did what God said simply because I weighed the natural consequences. Every single time I weigh God’s instructions against my personal wants, cravings, perceived needs, or desires, His consequences always, ALWAYS trump mine for the better.
I’m saying all this to say, the way we view God’s instructions and guidance make a huge difference in our attitudes.
Start paying attention to the things that you say you “have to do” because the truth is, you really don’t. And if you don’t, then what is the reason you choose what you choose?
My prayer for us today is that our love for God will motivate us most. That we would see that His option is always the best option, even if we can’t always tell immediately. He knows the consequences on every side of every issue and circumstance.
So today if you’re in between decisions or needing some direction, just stop for a moment. Realize that you aren’t obligated to do a single thing in this world.
That thought alone is liberating.
Now in light of that realization, ask God to show you His choice versus your choice. Ask Him to give you peace with the choice that will yield the best consequences. Then go with full assurance and trust, following the peace of God with you wherever you go.
“The peace of God is like a compass to our souls, leading us in the direction that the Holy Spirit intends for our lives.” Reflect and meditate on the truths found in these verses.
Ask yourself the following questions. You can comment below or share your answers with a friend!
What have you felt obligated to do lately?
How does realizing “you don’t have to” change your perspective on your life?
In what area(s) do you need to relinquish your own thoughts and ways so you can tune in to the Holy Spirit and be led by His peace?