O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, 0 LORD. YOU hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. PSALM 139:1-5
An ethical life comes down to myriad tiny decisions that we make every day. These decisions form patterns that develop the habits that shape our characters. While we may not see the effect of today’s indiscretion right now, looking back over years of shortcuts and compromises reveals ugly patterns and scars in our characters.
It would be impossible to anticipate each one of these decisions. Life is moving too rapidly. Change is constant, and even the nature of change is changing. The black and white seems to have muddied into a river of gray. So how do we improve our ability to make right decisions in the heat of the moment or the daily grind? Heart work.
Jesus was very clear when He said that it is not what a man puts into his mouth that makes him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth. We may be able to fake it in the short run, but over time our true nature oozes out of us. It will show up in what we say, what we do, and the decisions we make. These decisions spill out of our hearts. Generally speaking, if the heart is good, then the decisions are good; and if the heart is bad, then the decisions are bad.
How do we examine our hearts? We don’t. We ask other people to help us do it, people who know us well and who aren’t afraid to point out blind spots. More important, we invite the Holy Spirit to do it, frequently and thoroughly. This is a brave request. Don’t make it lightly. It will be answered.