What’s your reaction when you hear about a shocking moral failure from someone famous, especially someone largely trusted and respected? In today’s cancel culture, many are quick to express self-righteous satisfaction when other people are exposed and “canceled.” But at some point, we all need to learn how to stop making bad decisions.
We should start by searching our own souls. Each high-profile fall from grace should motivate us to avoid making similar, morally dangerous decisions. No one is immune from that. Here are 3 steps to avoid making dangerous decisions.
1. Embrace humility.
No one is above falling—including us. Many who publicly fall from grace share in common over-confidence in their own goodness: “Bad things won’t happen to me because I am basically good.” I care about protecting my wife, my life’s work, and my reputation. Especially as someone whose faith drives everything I do, I cannot afford to believe that I am incapable of doing terrible things.
I can’t just say “there but for the grace of God go I.” If I want to know how to stop making bad decisions, I need to admit to myself, with brutal honesty, that if I were to freely indulge the most selfish desires of my heart, unchecked, I am fully capable of great failure. Admitting this about ourselves motivates and enables us to prevent that.
2. Set boundaries.
We all need rails on the road of life. Setting boundaries in my life and work that serve to protect my marriage is one of the best decisions I’ve made for my marriage. I want Susan to know that my faithfulness to our vows is more important to me than what others might think about the guard rails I set for myself.
Boundaries result in being careful with where and how we spend time with members of the opposite sex, even in friendships or work environments. I don’t have guard rails because my marriage is fragile but because it’s strong—and I want it to remain that way. We also have to set boundaries around what we do online and how we battle sexual temptations. Our culture has embraced pornography in ways unimaginable just a generation ago, and it’s increasingly hard to avoid it. Porn is not harmless, nor a victimless crime, as some argue. It leads to addiction, broken relationships, human trafficking, and broken lives for children and adults alike.
3. Establish accountability.
We all need help from wise people. Great leaders find someone to answer to, someone (or a group) who can ask hard questions, hold them responsible for their actions and results, and remind them of their capacity to be corrupted. That’s why some variation of the saying “absolute power corrupts absolutely” has rung through the ages of history.
Accountability means giving others permission to challenge me by asking me if I’m doing what I said I would do. In my life and work, my wife, Susan, is one of the people I’ve asked to hold me accountable. I’ve committed to her that I won’t keep secrets, and I’ve asked for her help to protect our marriage against infidelity that might find a start online or elsewhere.
One practical way I’ve done this is to give Susan every password for every device and online account I create. It’s another decision I consider to be among the best I’ve ever made for the sake of my marriage.
Humility, boundaries, and accountability may seem costly to our pride or impractical at times. But I’m convinced each step is a small price to pay to protect the marriage and life I have. I hope you will join me in admitting that we all need help, and that it’s all worth it in the end.
What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to learn how to stop making bad decisions? Share in a comment.