Do I HAVE TO or WANT TO do what God asks? Some say that God did not give us the 10 Suggestions, He gave us the 10 Commandments. That is true, but there is a critical difference in how God sees the commands versus how we see the commands.
You eliminate freedom and choice when you turn good things into obligations. A past promise or a goal you made can become an obligation. When you do that, you change a “want to” into a “have to” – draining energy from your life.
The same can be true for commitments. They can block our sense of choosing to commit in the first place. Worse, commitments are used to manipulate behavior into compliance. For example, your marriage vows are a commitment. Are they a choice or an obligation? Do you have to stay married or want to stay married? How about obedience to God? Do you have to obey God, or do you want to? Do you have to love others, or do you want to?
See if you notice a difference when you read the following sentences out loud.
- I have to do what is right.
- I want to do what is right.
There is a profound difference between the two sentences. You do not have to do what is right. You have a choice. If you think you do not, you believe a lie.
The reality – you have a choice; you create fiction thinking there is no choice.
Commitments are good, but remember them as a choice to benefit from. When you focus on a commitment, you may forget that you are still free, which causes your sense of choice to vanish. “Yes, I chose to commit to this. I can back out of this commitment because I am free to do that but choose to follow through.”
Obligation is the opposite of freedom, choice, and want. Choice means you can “do something” or “not do it.” With choice, there is no compulsion for one option or the other. But with obligations, you must do it; you cannot get out of it. Obligations are de-energizing and draining – you roll your eyes, sigh, and complain about how you “should, ought, or must” do them. They keep you in bed in the morning, while want does not – they tend to get you up, even early. And obligations create a Left Circle lifestyle, reacting and responding. They create fiction rather than the truth of choice.
You can change an obligation to a choice. Any event in life can become tiresome or obligatory if you are not thinking clearly. Consider an athlete in training or a mother cleaning up after the kids. What about a family giving up an exciting vacation to care for a dying grandmother? How about just going to work or school?
In those situations, you can live in obligation and make life miserable for yourself and those around you, or in freedom.
Since obligations are real, there are things that you “have to” do; how can you live in freedom? The answer comes from understanding your hierarchy of values or wants.
It is pretty simple, some events or wants in your life are more important than others. Those things are generally important because of the values you have. So, you will either choose those values or ignore them. That is how the principle of Primary and Secondary Choices taught by Robert Fritz works.
A primary choice is the value you want, the outcome you want, or the vision you want to achieve – your THERE. A secondary choice is what you do to reach the primary one. Please note that Secondary Choices are not necessarily wanted in and of themselves.
Your current reality, where you are today, most likely is that you have yet to achieve the outcome you want. When you are focused on THERE, the Primary Choice, it creates energy to go from HERE to THERE, but only if you want THERE more than HERE. (See the Personal Plan Form for more information on THERE, HERE, and PATH.)
Your Primary Choice is where you want to be; your current reality is where you are, and the steps or actions you take are the PATH or the Secondary Choices you take to get to THERE.
If you are an athlete, are you training to train, or is there a Primary Choice (THERE) to be achieved? Olympic athletes train to get the Gold Medal. The training is a Secondary Choice to help get them to the Primary Choice. Training is the PATH to THERE from HERE.
You have more energy when focused on the Primary Choice versus focused on training. That is the power of Primary and Secondary Choices. When engaged with Secondary Choices, you may lose sight of why you are doing it. That is the time to remind yourself of the Primary Choice. “I may not enjoy this training, but I want to enjoy the Gold Medal!”
Moms probably do not want to clean up their kid’s sick messes at 3 a.m., but they will choose to do it because they love (want the best for) their kids. Of course, a family would not enjoy giving up an exciting vacation to watch someone die. But they can choose to because they value family more than entertainment.
Realigning your focus to the Primary Choice will add energy to your life. Ultimately the highest, most joyful, most energizing primary choice for doing anything is to please and glorify God. With His strength, you can be disciplined enough to make good secondary choices, not for yourself, but for the ultimate joy found in Christ.
Do you love people because you have to or because you want to? Big difference, right?