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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Breaking the Chain

5-6 It's better to be wise than strong;
   intelligence outranks muscle any day.
Strategic planning is the key to warfare;
   to win, you need a lot of good counsel.
(Proverbs 24:5-6)

How many times have we said, "I wish I were stronger," or "I wish I had the strength to resist that"?  There are different kinds of "muscle" - some is quite literal (like our bicep or triceps muscles in our arms), while others are kind of our idea of "muscle" (like when we say someone has the backbone to stand up against someone).  At various times in our lives, we want the second type of muscle - we want to be able to resist, to tell someone off who is really getting under our skin, etc.  Most of the time, we simply struggle through - bemoaning the fact that we just did not have enough emotional or spiritual "muscle" to accomplish what we hoped to accomplish.

Our passage tells us that "strength" really comes in the wisdom or intelligence we possess and USE.  It is one thing to possess something - it is quite another to put it to use on a consistent basis.  I have kitchen cabinets that bear "signs" of a good baker, but I seldom bake!  Why is it that we often don't use the wisdom / knowledge that we possess?  I guess the easiest answer to give is that we just respond by what comes to us first - the emotional investment into the circumstance.

Our emotions often play the prominent role in our response to the circumstances of life.  They seem to rise to the surface quite easily and we seem to rely upon what we "feel" more than what we "know".  Think about the last time you did something, or shared some words, that later you regretted.  Now think hard...what did you actually respond to?  Was it an emotion?  It is likely that your answer will be "yes".  

So, how do we get beyond the emotional "stimulant" that leads to our particular response that we later regret?  The second verse gives us the answer - strategic planning!  What does this mean?  Simply put - it means we have a PLAN!  There are particular actions that will lead to a desired result.  When we can begin by identifying the particular actions that led to the result we did NOT want, we often can identify the "alternative" to those actions.  

It might be easier to understand if I illustrate:

Certain actions lead to a wrong response - 
1. You skip a meal on a busy day at work
2. You are hungry and in a hurry
3. You are tempted by the candy machine in the hallway
4. You buy the candy bar
5. You consume the candy bar
6. You regret eating it because you just blew your diet!

The opposite actions that will lead to a right response -
1. You bring a basket of various snack foods to work
2. You begin to run like mad from one appointment to another
3. As your day speeds up, your hunger builds
4. You grab the properly proportioned, well-balanced snack from the basket
5. En route to the next appointment, you consume the snack
6. Your hunger is curbed until you can settle down to your lunch
7. You don't regret your choice because it was a wise one!

The difference between the two is in the planning.  We can never expect to break a bad habit of impulsively interrupting others when they are speaking until we become conscious of just how frequently we do that.  We will not recognize how much that is a relationship "drain" until we see the impact on the relationship.  As we become aware of the wrong action, we can take steps to "break the chain" of those wrong actions.  

The wisest thing we can do is to "uncover" the emotions behind the wrong actions we are involved in.  All actions are a result of some thought - and most times, thought is a direct result of our emotions.  The warning to us is to be aware of just how fickle our emotions are and how much they impact our actions.  So, as we begin to become "strategic" in our actions, we will also be exercising some strategic warfare against our unreliable emotions!