On average humans make over 3,000 decisions per day (according to google), and we can all think of those moments, when trying to make a choice, we resort to flipping a coin or using a chant from childhood about tigers and toes. People become most aware of their choices when they realize an erroneous choice was made, or when they see someone make a choice that they would not have made.
The accumulated choices a person makes tells us something about them. One of the things choices tell us is to what extent a person is in sync with the dominant culture.
With the Grammys and the Oscars having recently ended we can now definitively say what are the best songs and movies of the year. With this information we can grade our personal sensibilities for how our tastes match up with those of the experts. There is a bit of pride that seems to linger when you have correctly told your friends which film or song would win.
Choices are also a window into a person’s fears, ideals and insecurities. A quick glance into someone’s closet, pantry, Netflix account, or onto their bookshelves and you can begin to understand who a person is.
Each decision is either a participatory move toward or away from the dominant culture. In our own way, through choices made, we are stepping into a community. It is either the community of those who would and did, or the community of those who wouldn’t and didn’t.
Neo’s choice between the blue pill and the red pill is a classic example of this. He is either staying in or getting out of the matrix. Either way you can’t escape the fact that choices connect people to a broader landscape.
But what goes into making these choices and how aware can a person be of all of the factors that influence the choices that are made?
Certainly people are constantly bombarded with commercials and advertisements for everything from clothes and cars to shoes and phones. Then there are the subtle influences of others around us. We spend time with our friends and we notice what they wear or what kind of phone they have or what kind of car they drive and they become either an advocate or a detractor for any host of products. We ingest stranger’s complaints about dropped calls or their praise of great gas mileage and all of it influences us.
In the case of the Grammys and Oscars the music and movie worlds have gathered to say what society should value in music and movies. This is reflected in the winners chosen, but can best be seen in films and songs that were nominated. The songs and films that were not nominated for these coveted awards are relegated to the music and movie equivalent of the island of misfit toys.
Among the many influential factors there is an internal immoral impulse that we try to ignore, and in a way this also guides our decision making.
We try to make decisions that will discourage these immoral impulses but the impulse never completely dies.
Those immoral impulses seem to come alive while rooting for Don Draper, or Olivia Pope. As these characters indulge in immoral behavior there is a subtle type of vicarious satisfaction that can be felt. This vicarious satisfaction seems to be the closest we can come to giving in to those immoral impulses…unless, that is, you just decide to give in.
Our choices are certainly sometimes guided by an ideal that has been set from above our heads. Some expert has said this is the best new thing to purchase, and so instead of working to verify what they have said we simply take their word for it. We let them make the choice for us. It’s because they are experts, and they have experience in a particular area.
A Christian would say God has set a standard, a way of being in community that is to be emulated. The faithful give great effort to live up to that standard, and more often than not they fall short in multiple areas. When one is unable to live up to God’s standard sometimes the best choice seems to be to simply sweep mistakes under the rug and hope they are never found out. This cycle goes on and on mistake after mistake. It’s obvious something is broken, and it could be that the individual is broken.
But what if the bar has just been set too high?
Maybe God has given us a standard that is too high to live up to so that the best we can do is get good at making excuses for moments when we fall short. We point fingers at those who fall short when we are guilty of doing the same thing they have been accused of.
Does the veracity with which I tear down a philanderer become a way of subconsciously chastising the philanderer in me? Or is my attacking another a means of deception to throw the all-seeing eye off my own track?
God also makes choices. And God’s choices reveal something about who God is.
While humans tend to choose what is closest to perfect, God has purposely chosen imperfect humanity. By this choice God has understood the depth of human limitations and imperfections and not been deterred by either of them.
God chose to move in our direction even before we could conceive of either our brokenness or God’s perfection. This mismatch is more than flattering, and much more than compelling. To understand that God chooses me to be interested in and concerned about is life changing.
It is a privilege to live with that knowledge, and to make choices out of that reality.