Why is it that when a woman visits the hairdresser she takes her handbag with her everywhere she goes? She’s worried it will be stolen. She’s exercised her forethought in an effort to stay anxiety free. In knowing where her handbag is at all times she doesn’t need to entertain anxiety, because she knows implicitly the impact of stolen and misplaced valuables.
Consequences of bad things happening motivate us, but not so much the likelihood of their happening. Consequences challenge us to think differently because many things from a likelihood angle will probably never happen to us, whereas only one serious consequence can abruptly change everything.
From the consequence comes foresight of real pain, discomfort, inconvenience, and even the fear of death. When we think ‘consequences’ we imagine vividly what might occur. We begin to take things more seriously, and more urgent our outlook becomes.
What if we were replacing a high light bulb and we chose a sturdy ladder with which to aid us; the chances of falling are pretty remote. Sure, they’re possible, but most would discount this and take the calculated risk. If we consider the impact of the potential consequences, however, we’ll suddenly think twice. Did you know that sixty percent of fatalities from falls occurred from falls of five metres or less! We could also suffer permanently disabling spinal cord injuries, including the ‘Superman’ injury that Christopher Reeves sustained years ago.
And there’s another dimension to the issue of consequences.
There’s the principle of regret to consider. This is illustrated by the state we might one day find ourselves in when we could only wish for that 30 minutes back; ‘let me go back just half an hour... I’d do it differently,’ we might say. ‘Too late,’ says Wisdom in Proverbs 1. ‘Come again another day.’ (Proverbs 1:20-33).
Regret is a powerfully painful emotion. It might get better with time, but it’s never really attenuated the way we would like. The consequences of our actions or potential actions should, in truth, weigh heavily on our minds, or at least heavy enough to knock some sense in there. This is the platform, now, for action.
It’s the consequence, and not the likelihood of the accident occurring, that is most likely to motivate us to take the precautions we need to. There’s not much closer we can come to a practical wisdom than this, for our physical survival can depend on it.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.