The Only Way to Never Is to Never Say Never

Counselling is like a mirror, and not just for the client. Even as I sit there and listen, God's Spirit often tells me, 'Yes, you relate with that, don't you?'

I see it as a good thing. When it happens it means I'm not deceived by conceit. There's an immediate empathy, because there's some personal experience for their particular kind of suffering.

Over the years, I've counselled people who were lamenting in disbelief - 'I never thought I would ever fall for something like that - I said I would never do that - and I never would have, but now I have!' As I reflect, I can think of two life situations where I had said, without thinking it would ever happen, 'I would never do that.' And I did. On both occasions. Yes, twice. Both of these situations have involved major regret - both situations involved significant harm and railed me and my family onto tracks we would have preferred not to have rolled along.

These kinds of situations are what we routinely find in the counselling situation - shock and disbelief.

As human beings we're so prone to believing our own press, which is the propagation of our own stories that we hardly ever challenge. To fall into a 'never' situation is just such a human thing to do.

If we say we'll never divorce, we better ensure we do the kind of work on our marriage that means that possibility should never happen, and not simply rest on the idea that our partner holds to the same premise, because they don't. I made the promise that we-would-never-divorce, all the while never doing the work that would have protected against that reality. The only way to never is to never say never.

If we say we'll never have an affair, that's fine, but we had better imagine how easily such things happen if we're not continually guarding our hearts. Too easily do we all rest in the fact that our ideals say we would never, without realising we're fallible beings prone to being wanted and needed. None of us are too far away from falling in love with something or someone totally inappropriate. The only way to never is to never say never.

If we say we'll never take drugs or drink too much or end up addicted to something, we best keep ourselves to short account on any habit-forming behaviours, knowing that some behaviours ought never be engaged in. We somehow need to bear in mind that we're never beyond addiction. By never putting ourselves beyond it we exercise the fear of the Lord. The only way to never is to never say never.

If we say we'll never end up in prison or publicly shamed or bankrupt, we best not break the law in the first place, nor engage in unethical practices, nor take financial risks we shouldn't take. But there are no assurances. We could easily find ourselves incarcerated. All it takes is a few seconds of impulsivity at the wrong time in the wrong place with the wrong people. It's easy to be tempted into an unethical decision or three. And anyone can fall foul of bad financial circumstances. The only way to never is to never say never.

Of course, there are a million and more things we could apply this to.

The only thing that ensures an authentic vigilance against that shocking reality we would never see ourselves doing is to see ourselves doing it - often enough to enjoy the fresh motivation not to do it.

Seeing ourselves capable of falling into significant sin ensures we guard our hearts against it as well as giving us empathy for those who have suffered such a fall.

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