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Choice is using my will. Learning to choose can be done at every stage of life. The two mistakes in interacting with another’s will are, we either overpower it, or we get into power struggles with it. In both cases, we learn harmful strategies for choosing in life.
We have an opportunity to choose how we respond to instruction (Do not eat from that tree, for in the day you eat from it, you shall surely die…). We have the opportunity to choose obedience or disobedience, and should understand clearly from The Word what will be the outcome of either choice. The Bible makes the circumstances clear and the cost clear. It is not really a choice, if our will is overpowered.
We overpower others will, when the intensity of our emotion, the threat of punishment (not the same as discipline…) or shame, guilt, rejection etc. are too powerful for them to feel they have a real choice. When our emotional needs, or our fears and pain overwhelm another’s will, they do not make a true choice, they comply, and thus take a position of compliance. This is not the same as choosing to obey. If you are in a restaurant, you can only order from the options presented on the menu. You will not order what does not seem to be an option. In the same way, if we cannot see the option of disobedience, we do not make a genuine choice. We learn instead fear and pain, and our will becomes paralyzed. We only do what others tell us, which is a dangerous way to live.
We get into power struggles when we are too invested in being right, or winning a battle, or feel that we must get others to obey at all costs. Too often the cost is relationship, and from the platform of a wounded relationship, we stay in a constant tug of war using our will for resistance. This sets us up for all kinds of pain and frustration.
The distinction between discipline and punishment…Discipline is an overall strategy for teaching. It may involve an intentionally applied consequence, but the goal is to learn, to engage our will, and be gently shaped in the context of a loving relationship. Punishment, on the other hand, is essentially revenge. We have had enough, and it is time to pay the price for opposing. This approach will result in the deterioration of relationship and ultimately both persons will suffer over the long-term relationship.
God gave us the freedom to choose, because real obedience is an act of the will, made in the context of a growing love relationship. I once heard a teacher say that God is after a Bride not an army. He is looking for voluntary lovers not obligated servants. God wants the development of a healthy will. Otherwise we develop a lifestyle of compliance or resistance. Neither of these are true obedience.