One Right Answer – Part 1

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Is there one right answer to every question of practice?

Lynna Sutherland

Lynna believes that the gospel moves the homeschool mom from performance to possibility. She offers support for moms overwhelmed by homeschooling multiple ages and distracted by constant sibling conflict. Ditch what slows you down and look to Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The One Parenting Trick

Last week I posted this graphic.  And wrote this blog post.

The One Parenting Trick

And I promised that I would follow up.  It’s not really my intent to make anyone feel foolish or lousey.  Rather, it’s my intent to explore something I’ve been asking myself and wondering about myself: “Why am I so driven to find the ‘one right way’ to do things?”  And it turns out, there isn’t just one right answer to that question.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the joke, even if it was lame.)  The more I thought about it, the more answers – both internal and external – began to unfold.  Thus began the journey of blogging about all of these factors that came spilling out when I started poking around a bit into the question of this drive to find “the one right way”.  So, for all those of you joining, take what is helpful and leave the rest.  (Or rejoice that you don’t have to deal with the hang-ups I have!)

Why are we so driven to find one right answer to every question of practice or lifestyle? Read about some of the factors that create this perception.

Right and Wrong Exist

No matter your worldview or philosophy, you do believe that there is some sort of standard of right and wrong.  There are good-parenting type things and bad-parenting type things.  There are things that tend towards financial stability and things that tend towards financial ruin.  There are such things as unethical business practice and flawed methods of education.  I certainly want to make godly and God-glorifying decisions.

I’m not arguing for moral relativity.  Morality isn’t relative.  But application of those morals often is.

Because we all know – and innately feel – that there are right and wrong choices, certainly we want to make a choice that qualifies as “right,” especially as it comes to the care and raising of our children!  But rather than “right” being a spot in the middle of a bullseye that we are all constantly working towards, “right” is all of the area between the two extremes – the two ditches – on either side.  And in some cases that space encompases a lot of ground!  It isn’t really my purpose in this series to identify any of those ditches, but just to replace one metaphor with another.

Good, Better and Best Exist

OK, so maybe as you read the section above, you were willing to admit that there might not be only one “right” answer, but surely there is one best answer.  Maybe the poor schmuck who chooses door number three isn’t exactly “wrong” … he’s just inferior.  Hey, aren’t we supposed to do our best?  Be our best?  Give it our best shot?  Sure.  Now let’s take a look at what that means in reality.

Here’s the problem.  How do you measure “best”?  At the state fair, the winner of the pumpkin contest is, quite simply, the owner of the pumpkin that weighs in with the largest number on the scale.  But most of life isn’t so straightforward.  Let’s take dinner, for example.  You want to make dinner for your family.  And you want to do your “best”.  But this decision, like many others, is a multi-factor decision.  How do you measure “best”?

It is:

  • The healthiest? (And then you’d have to decide how to define that!)
  • The tastiest? (And what if you have six different palates coming to your table?)
  • The most time-efficient (so you can spend quality time with the kids)?
  • The cheapest (so you can be frugal and save money)?

I could add  more to this list, but you get the idea.  “Best” is not the end of a single spectrum.  “Best” is the balance and intersection of the factors above (and lots more!) in the way that best suites your circumstances.  Anyone who has ever prepared a meal knows that there is no possible way to hit a “10” on all of those items at one time.  Cheaper?  You’ll be making more from scratch and the prep will be longer.  Healthier?  Probably more expensive and maybe not as tasty!  (Don’t shoot me.)

Perception and Reality of Best

And, whether you realize it or not, you are going to subconsciously rank those factors.  Are you a wiz at coupon-cutting and bargain hunting?  Then “cheap” might get up there near the top of your list.  Maybe you’re a lousy cook (me!) and so “time-efficient” sounds like a very noble way to say spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.  Or maybe you love to cook, so making a meal that everyone oohs and aahs over is your mark of success.

Freeing?

Perhaps you are reading this and nodding and feeling the freedom of it all.  Or, perhaps you are like me, feeling a little jittery.  See, I do want the freedom.  I do want to know that there are a variety of choices that are all just fine.  But ack!  How can I be trusted to pick the right one!  Oh, oops.  There I go again!  Even when I know that there isn’t one right answer, my brain still wishes there was.  Why??  We’ll have to talk about that in One Right Answer: Part 2!

You can find Part 2 here.

  • I’ve never left your house disappointed after sharing a meal with y’all – you are not a lousy cook!

    • Haha! Yea, I can read. And I can measure. That’s about the extent of it. 🙂

  • I’ve found as I’m getting older that I am more willing to admit others ways might be best FOR THEM.

    • I agree completely, though I’m definitely still growing in that way. It takes a certainly amount of self-assurance to be comfortable with others making the choices they make. 🙂

  • You make some great points! Sometimes, when we’re passionate about something we think that we know what is BEST. But best for us isn’t always what is best for others. God has all of us here for different reasons and He is preparing us differently.