Oh, the mortification of a bad choice and, oh, the ongoing effects of compound interest. As negative consequences pile up, it can quickly feel as if you’ll always be trapped in debt to the past. The simple answer seems complex, the hard decision seems impossible, and the temptation to pile on more poor choices becomes almost overwhelming. The only way to resist is to deliberately choose to think twice and carefully weigh the consequences.

To break the cycle before she makes another poor choice, Shannon needs to Stop and examine the situation, Look to identify the issues, Listen for insight from the Lord, and then Look Again as she waits for the Lord to give her châkam. With the choice she makes, either she will prove herself a Smart Girl with an intelligent attitude toward life or she will revert to the old, immature thinking that brought about the consequence with its compound interest in the first place.

What Consequences Might You Be Overlooking?

I recently had dinner with a group of women who could hold master’s degrees from the School of Bad Choices and Miserable Consequences. In the setting of a church fellowship hall, they looked just like any group of friends enjoying a girls’ night out. They bantered, laughed, and talked about clothes, children, and men as girlfriends often do. But these seemingly lighthearted women were newly released from our local corrections facility, otherwise known as a prison.

At one point I asked a question that sobered the conversation:  “Knowing what you know now, what would you think twice about next time? What choices would you make differently?”

A hand shot up at the back of the room. “I’d think twice about wanting to experience drugs. I just had to try them, and I ended up on the streets. I became a prostitute. They are so strong, so powerful. Even tonight I want to get high.”

Another hand went up. “I thought I had to be independent so early. I chose to leave home, to be on my own.”

And another hand. “I chose sex at an early age. I never thought of the consequences. It was just what I wanted to do!”

The next woman acknowledged, “I never thought the things I was doing would have an effect on my children. Now I know I hurt them with my choices. But I never gave it a second thought until I went to prison and I saw their pain.”

The hands just kept coming. “I should have thought about who I was hanging out with.”

“I thought I could handle everything myself.”

“I should have thought twice about the financial commitments I made.”

“I should have thought about how to deal with temptation. I didn’t think I could say no.”

The lives of these women perfectly illustrate the maxim that “sin will take you farther than you ever intended to stray, cost you more than you ever intended to pay, and keep you longer than you ever intended to stay.”3 Each one had paid dearly for her failure to think twice by enduring the harsh consequences of her choices. But, of course, you don’t have to end up in prison to experience the devastating penalties of compound interest on poor choices.

  • More than fifty percent of the marriages in this country reportedly end in divorce.4 Could thinking twice have helped some of those women avoid the pain of such a division—or led them to avoid a painful marriage to begin with?
  • Countless children are vulnerable because someone hasn’t thought twice about the danger of an overly interested neighbor, relative, or teacher. What devastating consequences could be headed off by someone asking, “What’s going on?” or “Is this an appropriate interaction?”
  • Many friendships have ended in disappointment because too much was shared too soon. A second thought before “telling all” would have spared some women the hurt of realizing that certain things should be kept private.
  • The Internet has made it all too easy to strike up inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, and women quickly find themselves snared by the tentacles of an emotional affair—and sometimes more. Consider the heartache that could be avoided by thinking twice about the potentially disastrous effects of cyberflirting.

It’s never too late to turn around your thinking. But keep in mind that, like a rusty bolt, the longer you stay locked in position, the greater the effort required to slide toward healthier choices and the positive consequences they bring. The second look can give you a clearer perspective of how things are rather than how you wish they were. Even if you don’t like what you see, looking again gives you an opportunity to make a good choice.