In our lives, it may be tempting for us to reject the importance of those little moments where our destiny is often decided by choices made under deep pressure and in absence of the control that marks most of the way that we live. Yet it would be a serious mistake for us to cast aside those momentary lapses of reason, even if they are not flattering, because they are the most revealing of the raw material that we have to work with as people. The most dangerous sides of our personalities and our profoundest weaknesses do not make for the most flattering of pictures. Yet, like jail photos, it is not always the most flattering pictures of ourselves that are the most needful, for we need to know the worst that can happen as motivation for the development of our character, for support networks to keep us encouraged and accountable, and for our understanding of what situations are acceptable and which ones are not. Self-knowledge is required for the sort of wisdom that is required to live well.
It is a common thing to hear people say that their mistakes and blunders were just little things and not important at all. In terms of the length of time involved, it may not be all that lengthy, but importance has nothing to be about length, but more about breadth and depth. The fact that we may not be out of control for very long does not in any way prevent that brief moment of time in the course of our lives from being decisive in setting the path of our lives on a different direction. For one example, a brief crime that draws the attention of the police can change one’s destiny forever, by making it impossible for you to live in certain places or do certain behaviors for the rest of your life, and to always be on the need for good behavior or else one’s past will permanently lead to vulnerability and trouble. One can never really pay one’s debt to society; it always remains latent to be triggered again whenever it is necessary.
The Bible gives us a high demand when it comes to the monarchical rule we are to have over our thoughts and feelings and behaviors. We are to bring every thought into captivity, to have total dominion over all aspects of our behavior and conduct. The fact that we are to have such absolute rule over ourselves tend to make me very hostile to anyone else having that sort of absolute rule over me. Given the fact that all of us struggle mightily to rule over ourselves well, it makes it very hard to trust other people ruling over us. We can only trust the virtuous with freedom, and we can only trust the virtuous with authority. That such trust is difficult to find suggests that virtue is our great political crisis. What to do about that is a matter that is far more difficult, as it requires a repentant heart turning away from sin.