There Is No Small Stuff

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Every choice matters.

Any time there is a choice to be made, the way one decides determines to some extent the choices that become available thereafter.

In many cases choices are between two equally legitimate goods. In some cases the choices are between two goods, one of which is a greater good. In some cases the choices are between a good and an evil.

When this last is the case one must take a lesson from Church Teaching and from Harry Potter, one must always choose what is right not necessarily what is easy. The remarkable thing is that when one is trained in such choices, what is right becomes what is easy.

And each choice is a training in choices. That is why each one matters.

Now it is possible to read this too strictly and become paralyzed, uncertain of which way to go--doing the Christian equivalent of consulting the auguries over whether to have the baked potato or the sweet potato. That choice does matter, but it is so small a choice and the relative differences between the two so small that the "wrong choice" whichever it might be does not carry the weighty consequences of an incorrect moral choice. However, to dismiss it as an insignificant choice is to miss the point. Every opportunity to choose is an opportunity to learn. Every chance one has to select one thing over another is a chance to see what the consequences of a choice may be.

Some choices are enormous, thoroughly life altering. For example, on the mundane level, the choice to take a job near family and present friends or to move to a distant place to take a job. This choice does, in effect, shut down a lot of other choices that could be made. Either way, certain avenues are closed off.

So, too, when one is faced with a moral choice, but in an even more profound way. A choice to abuse recreational drugs may start out as a choice and may wind up as a necessity as the body becomes dependent upon them. The choice to cheat "just a little" on income tax, expense reports, petty cash vouchers, makes the next time just a little easier.

Every choice matters. Probably the place where this is most often overlooked is in our entertainment. There are a great many good, licit, and helpful choices that can be made regarding which types of entertainment we indulge in. However, for every good choice there are any number of bad choices. These bad choices, either because of lack of quality or lack of morality, move us downward, ever so slightly. Suddenly, from a life of enjoying Shakespeare and the western classics, one is watching Daisy Duke and reading "Classics Illustrated" comics. These are not things that happen with just a single choice, but a series of choices lead us down roads from which it is hard to turn away.

If beauty leads to God, lack of beauty, lack of goodness, must perforce lead away.

So many things seem not to matter. Watching this film, reading this book, going to this store, all are minor in themselves, but rich in their influence on future choice. When one deliberately lowers standards in order to "fit in" or "get along" or even "take it easy" or "chill out," the compromise has ramifications. It is impossible to guess where they might lead.

Now, all of this would be very dire if there were not recourse to God. Everything matters to God, even the smallest things done. It doesn't matter in the sense that salvation hangs upon every action, but it matters in the way that any good parent is concerned with everything his or her child does. God wants what is best for each person. God wants the proper choices to be made and He wants for each person to approach Him more closely. The choices one makes affect how closely one can approach God, therefore, God cares about those choices. Because He cares, He stands ready to help. Prayer is a constant help. Dedicating meals to God allow the participants to eat and enjoy the food prepared in a proper and balanced way. Prayer at other times helps prevent erroneous choices or redeem poor choices already made.

Prayer is the proper tool, the correct "weapon" in the war of choice. Prayer will guard and protect, advise and inform, and ultimately, the door opened to God and the Holy Spirit through prayer will allow the light to shine needed to see in the darkness of this present world. Whenever a choice is before us, a moment with God will suffice to help ensure the best choice is made. "Who has God lacks nothing."

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I remember reading that Walter Pater as a teenager wrote in a letter to someone, "I think it is about time that I began to form my tastes." I thought at the time what a marvellous approach that was to life and how utterly foreign it must seem to 99% of moderns.

His, of course, was an almost purely aesthetic concern, but that doesn't mean that we Christians can't apply it to ourselves with even better reason than he had.

I believe that toward the end of his life, Pater returned to Anglicanism. May be rest in peace; Requiescat in pace.

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for this. Pater was a rather interesting fellow with some pronounced "tastes" as exhibited in his essays. But his writing is wonderful. It's a shame that so few read anything by him any more.



I certainly agree that we need to inform our aesthetic judgement. Often I point out that an artist is good, even if I don't particularly like him, and that I need to learn to like him. I get strange looks from folks who seem to accept a bizarre form of "I like it, that settles it, it's good for me."

However, when you say "That choice does matter, but it is so small a choice and the relative differences between the two so small that the "wrong choice" whichever it might be does not carry the weighty consequences of an incorrect moral choice." I have to ask if you recognize choices where there is absolutely NO moral consequence between one side and the other (strawberry or vanilla, for instance), not just minimally weighted consequences?

Dear Erik,

The sentence you quote is intended to convey precisely what you have suggested. The choice matters, inasmuch as it removes from the realms of possibility certain future choices; however, it is not in itself a moral choice and so the consequences of choosing "incorrectly" do not have repurcussions in the moral realm.

I suspect there are quite a few choices like this--however, I have no way of knowing.

I was more concerned with choices that do have some moral overtone, even though they appear not to have. Hence, "no small stuff." There is a certain consequence to stuffing one's head with Mickey Spillane and the Marquis de Sade, even though the one may be just this side of illicit and even certain works of the other may be licit--as to that I have grave doubts.



Yes, I think your estimation of Spillane (whom I have to admit to having read just about all of) and de Sade is about correct. There are some good, licit bits of de Sade, but to get to them...



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 4, 2006 1:34 PM.

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