I read an article today in the New York Times on the budget standoff. In justifying their position on insisting to attach conditions to a budget, Rep. Stephen King of Iowa said simply, “Because we’re right.” His colleague, Steve Pearce of New Mexico went further to say, “At times, you must act on principle and not ask what cost, what are the chances of success.”
That phrase, “act on principle and not ask what cost” struck me.
Consequences exist. Really. They do. I think that is where you have to start. We all like to ignore them. We pretend they aren’t there. We forget about Newtonian physics (the old “equal and opposite” action thing). We pass over the “reap what you sow” evidence. But once we step out of our delusions, we look around and see, yes, there are consequences to things.
And consequences have, well, consequences. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, nor does it necessarily make you a better person. I find any one who would say, “I’m going to do what I think is right and I don’t care who gets hurt in the process” to be a potentially dangerous person.
That is what is so disturbing to me about Mr. Pearce’s comments. It seems that he recognizes consequences but chooses to ignore them.
Now here’s my rule for ignoring consequences: it should be for a greater good and the downside risks should only involve the person who chooses to ignore the consequence. Some examples:
- I’ll protect others even though I may get hurt.
- I’ll provide for others even though it means suffering for me.
- I’ll give to others even though it means I won’t be able to spend for myself.
It is the story of the soldier that lays down his life for his country. It is the story of the philanthropist that gives his or her money away to help others. And in the case of my faith, it is a God who sacrifices of himself for those whom He loves.
All good reasons to ignore consequences.
But to ignore consequences just because you are “right”? Ignore consequences that could harm others and not yourself? Ignore consequences because there are people encouraging you to do so without regard for others?
This isn’t “right”. It is even beyond “wrong”. It is an attitude that leads inevitably to very, very bad things.