When Choices Spiral out of Control

These past few months I’ve been working with a local family, trying to help them gain some control of their lives. One member, “Dan,” is a 21 year old male, has a daughter and a record. But he is also working toward his GED and had a job interview this week … until he missed a meeting with his PO and got 90 days.

“Dan’s” mom is heartbroken. “Out of my three boys, he’s the one I thought would make it. When the police showed up (years ago) to say my son had been arrested, I thought they were kidding me. Not Dan. I knew he was hanging around with this one guy, a bad guy. But I never thought it would come to this.”  Bad guy (who already had a record) talked Dan into carrying the drugs for him; Dan needed money — and got the time. So missing an appointment with the parol officer has far-reaching, serious consequences.

As a mother, I can appreciate how impulsive choices — wrong choices — early on can have devastating, life-long consequences in the lives of youth whose decision-making faculties are not yet fully formed (or who did not benefit from the positive role models that are essential to good moral formation).

This is not to say young people should not be held responsible for the choices they make. Recently at AnnArbor.com, I wrote this article about how the little rules we allow children to break when they are small can have far-reaching consequences. The comments I received (as you can see) are pretty evenly split. Some thought it was much ado about nothing — but other parents got it.

And so, when my kids came home, I talked with them about our friend Dan. We drive by two prisons on our way to school every day, so the kids understand the concept of “jail.” I told them that Dan would not be working on the yard this week — that he was in prison because he made some bad choices.

“What did he do?” Christopher wanted to know.

“Well … It all started because he made a bad friend, who encouraged him to do something he knew was wrong. And he needed money, so he made a very bad choice.”

“Why did he need money?”

“He stopped going to school and couldn’t get a good job. And he has a daughter whose mommy needs money to take care of her.”  As you might expect, this raised a whole new set of questions, which I fielded as discretely as I could.

“We’re sad for our friend, and we need to ask God to take care of him while he’s in jail. But what I want you to remember is how important it is to make GOOD friends who encourage you to make GOOD choices. And I want you to remember to thank God every day for your school, and for a family who loves you no matter what. Every day that you go to school and do your best, you make us proud.”

Lord, please watch over my friend today. He was just starting to dig his way out of some very bad choices. Help him not to be discouraged, but to be even more determined to turn his life around. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!

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