Monday, October 04, 2010

The useless hypothetical

As time goes on, I have less patience for the hypothetical. Perhaps that's a sign that I'm moving from my idealistic 20's into my pragmatic 30's, but pontificating irritates me.

I believe it started by reading this blog, which said, "God only expects us to be holy in real life, not in every hypothetical situation."

I agree with that.

Frustratingly, I've gone through a few months of one of those times in life where your mind inevitably wanders to questions such as "what if I'd done this..." "what if that had happened..." "what if he had responded like that..."

But here is the truth- there is no what if. There is only what is. Or was. At the risk of quoting a pop song, "The rest is still unwritten."

I can't wonder what would have happened, because the truth is that what "would have happened" did happen. Countless forces led me to act as I did, countless influenced him, and then there are those universal forces of situation and time that are beyond our control. Every action is the result of a perfect storm.

It is for this reason that I can't stand it when people insist on how they would respond in hypothetical situations. The truth is that you don't know how you would respond. You don't know what relationships would shape you, what movie would influence you, how fear or love would drive you, or how the wind would be blowing that day. (perhaps it's for that reason that Christians are reminded to not judge)

There is no hypothetical. There is only what is. Conjecturing beyond that seems to assume that you know yourself far better than you probably do.

And that is also why I think it is important to take seriously those things you do decide to do, rather than pondering those you might. Perhaps the world would be a better place.


Alissa said...

This really touched me, Ann. I've been going through something similar but from the other side. I thought I knew how I would react to something, but my hypothetical considerations were hopelessly wrong, and I've been worrying about how much else of the way I've thought of myself is also wrong.

Shyla said...

I think another fear/concern would be if you are consistently unethical in the hypothetical then that would spill over into the actual situations in the future. Also, living in the "what ifs" means living in the past and I don't believe God designed us for living in the past.

Anonymous said...

It is helpful to look back at how we DID react in real situations. We were discussing this at housegroup last night. Hopefully by thinking over what we did wrong, we might behave as better people in future. I remembered an occasion when I lost my temper at work. We discussed how I could handle it differently next time, to give a more positive outcome. Who knows if I will, but I can try!

We are still being perfected, some of us need more perfecting than others :( The important thing is to know God, not to know yourself.