7 Reasons Really Smart People Do Really Dumb Things

One of my favorite pastor blogs is that of David Foster, whom I like a lot not only because he's insightful and helpful, but also because he's not one of those cool, young, "pretty boy" pastors (like that Jeremy Carr guy at OBF in Oxford...who's just a little too good-looking to be a "real" pastor). Anyway, here's one of David's dead-on posts, entitled, "7 Reasons Really Smart People Do Really Dumb Things":
It’s easy to understand why wayward, loose living, undisciplined people fail and face a life of misery. Not so self-evident why smart people, I’m talking about educated people, people who ought to know better; people who have sacrificed, gone to college, gotten degrees, and credentials, and even worked their way up. Some of these smart people start their own businesses and have affected and changed the world, and offered services and solutions that everyone wants.

It’s just plain harder to understand why smart people self-destruct. And why do they do really dumb things at the most in opportune moments of their lives? As I’ve observed my own life and break-outs of stupidity (Amen!), and the lives of others, consulting, and other interaction, I’ve come up with seven top reasons why really smart people self-destruct.

Really smart people self-destruct when they lack boundaries. It’s really that simple. Is there a set of standards that you live by; things that you simply will not do, fences that you’ve built for yourself? It’s called self-discipline. For example: ” Thou shall have no other Gods before Me.” That’s a boundary. “Thou shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.” That’s a boundary. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy.” That’s a boundary. As a matter of fact, there are ten basic boundaries that God gave us. Not twenty, not seventeen, not thirty-five sub-paragraph B; just ten. Without boundaries in your life, without things that you simply will not do, in the heat of the moment temptation can overtake you. Without boundaries, you will self-destruct.

Really smart people self-destruct when they lack margin. You know what margin is. It’s the space on every page you read in every book you’ve ever read. It’s the white space. Margin in life is simply space for errors, space for things to go wrong. Most people live without margin, which means that their credit cards are to the max. They spend more money than they take in. They are emotionally spent. There is no margin, no reserves when life really hits you hard, in order to be able to break back. Without margin you become brittle. Without margin everything has to go to the right and go perfectly. You risk everything on everything going up. Remember what goes up will come down.

Really smart people self-destruct when they lack identity. Isn’t it interesting when Jesus launched His public ministry only three and a half years long, He did it by being baptized? And at that baptism, He got His identity: “You are my Son in whom I am well-pleased.” Who are you? Whose son are you? What identity, what integrity, what sense of honor do you carry? Who do you represent? Who, at the end of the day, matters so much to you that you want to live an honorable life? What happens if you get found out about the secret things you are doing? Will those you love and care about be destroyed when you’re found out to not be what you say you are?

Really smart people self-destruct when they lack audacity. I like that word: audacity! It’s the ability to say “no.” It’s the ability to walk away. It’s the ability to not be intimidated by powerful people: “do this or you’ll lose your job.” There are some things worse than losing a job. There are some things worse than walking away from the things that we feel we can walk away from. That takes audacity. And where does audacity come from? Boundaries, margin, and identity.

Really smart people self-destruct when they lack an inner life. It’s called impulse. Some people call it temptation. We all have it. Impulses: the impulse to say something, the impulse to fight back, the impulse to lash out, to get even. A strong inner life where you can carry on inner dialogue, think, ponder, and consider all your options before you act, or better yet react, means that you have to have a strong inner life. An inner life requires time for meditation, prayer, thought, study, and contemplation. Watching TV, The Simpsons, and The Family Guy won’t cut it.

Really smart people self-destruct when they lack a dissenting voice in their life. Basically, who can tell you “no”? Who can look at you and say, “you’ve got a b00ger in your nose,” and instead of being angry and offended by it, get a Kleenex? Someone who can trump you. Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean that you ought to do it.

Really smart people self-destruct when they lose hope. Hope is what keeps us alive. The hope of gaining something, having something in the near future. And equal to that is the fear of losing it. So without fear, there is no hope because the thing we hope for is also the thing we fear losing. When you lose hope, you lose humanity. You lose effort and desire. You lose the fear, which makes life worth living.

Bottom line, here it is, write it down, paste it on your bulletin board, and tattoo it across your windshield. You’re only one dumb decision away from destroying everything you’ve spent a lifetime building. Be very careful.

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