The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26, 28
I first saw the message on a billboard. It read: “Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you’re stupid and make bad decisions.” While the word stupid is harsh, I laughed at the message – until I began thinking more deeply about it. How many times do I attribute the consequences of my behavior to others or to circumstance, instead of accepting responsibility for my own lack of foresight or intellectual lapses? Bad luck? Someone else’s incompetence? Sometimes these may be plausible excuses, but my ego generally does not deal maturely with my shortcomings, and so it seeks a scapegoat – even a self-denigrating scapegoat. Surely, I did not bring this onto myself – I am not that dumb. Yet, I cannot count the times poorly chosen or unfortunate words have escaped from my mouth, or I have acted in ways I later regretted. Yes, everything happens for a reason, and sometimes that reason is my stupidity.
Stupidity and bad decision-making can be used as excuses, however, and reasons for not being fully present to and accountable for an unfortunate situation. Hiding behind these self-deprecating masks can be a defense mechanism – no one will criticize me if I confess to being stupid, will they? People don’t kick a dead horse, do they? Surely, they will seek to lift me up, praise and flatter me by professing how intelligent I am. If I plead nolo contendre by reason of my own ignorance, others will pity me and let me off the hook.
The truth is that we all make poor decisions and suffer lapses in judgement. Just because we act in stupid ways, at times, does not make us stupid – it makes us human. The sin is not in making poor decisions but in how we react to the poor decisions we make. We can easily make situations worse if we do not accept responsibility, apologize as appropriate, and make a sincere effort to atone for our mistakes.
Certainly, we should take care not to confuse stupidity with being unworthy of love and acceptance. Just because we make a bad decision does not disqualify us from receiving the love of God and others. We are children, in God’s eyes, and children make childish mistakes. God’s forgiveness is given more readily than is usually true with others or ourselves. Sometimes the best we can do is to own up to the sometimes unpleasant consequences of our humanity, forgiving ourselves and forgiving others.
Come home to church this Sunday. Good things happen for a reason, too!