Whose Consequences?


Back in the 1940s, Ralph Edwards created a radio program called “Truth or Consequences.” Its popularity resulted in a television version in 1950. The program’s premise required contestants to answer trivial questions correctly or reap the consequences. The consequences usually meant doing foolish, silly things that resulted in the audience’s appreciative laughter.

In fact, most contestants answered incorrectly on purpose because they wanted to participate in the fun of the consequences. Unfortunately, consequences of many decisions do not produce pleasant results. Some choices affect only those who make the decisions; however, many decisions have far-reaching effects.

Most families understand the cause/effect relationship of choices family members make. Parents make many decisions that affect all the family members in one way or another. In many marriages, one spouse’s career takes precedence over the other’s. This precedence may involve a higher salary or availability of certain jobs. In the early years of my marriage, my husband’s career was in the field of pastoral ministry. I, on the other hand, worked in public education as an English teacher.

From 1975-1990, my husband moved our family four times to new church positions. We went to Princeton, Illinois, after his seminary education and then moved back to Texas to serve churches in Abilene, Big Spring, and Waco. By 1990, he had settled into a new area of ministry as a chaplain at Hendrick Medical Center.

Each time we moved, I had to find a new teaching position. Teachers tend to “move up” on their campuses as they gain seniority. When I needed a job, I took any available position even though it may not have been the position I wanted because the tenured teachers on their campuses had the perks of seniority. I had to wait my turn to move into those positions. 

My husband did not intentionally cause professional difficulty for me, but I always realized that teachers’ jobs were far more plentiful than pastors’ jobs. Therefore, I accommodated our family’s needs by reaping the consequences of someone else’s decisions.

That same principle relates to the children in the family. When parents decide to move, that means their children will have to leave their school, their church, and their friends. They will face the stress of having to adjust to entirely new environments in all those aspects of life. Because the parents provide the family income and have complete control, children have no choice but to adjust.

Other examples of suffering unpleasant and undeserved consequences include business decisions, marital failures, and bad or unwise behavior.  Many people lose jobs and pensions when businesses downsize or executives raid pension funds. Marriages often fail because one spouse has moved on with another person or has decided that he or she simply doesn’t love the other person anymore. 

Children often create tragic consequences for their families. Teenagers who become involved with drugs or other illegal behavior embarrass and terrify their parents, who remain legally responsible for their children’s choices. In other words, the parents suffer the consequences of their children’s bad decisions.

The teenage daughter who becomes pregnant creates a completely new and unwanted family dynamic. Will she marry the baby’s father?  Will she finish school? Will the teen’s parents have to support their daughter and their grandchild for the foreseeable future?  Certainly, the daughter’s choices have produced consequences for her parents to work through.

Many people make choices without consideration for others. They presume those close to them will accommodate whatever decisions they make. They have forgotten that those affected people also have choices. They may choose not to accommodate decisions in which they did not participate.  For example, grandparents may decide they cannot or will not raise another baby or continue supporting an adult child.

Not all consequences have such personal significance as these I’ve mentioned. Sometimes an organization or other entity will do something it believes in without thinking about how other entities may respond. In the late 1990s, several conservative religious groups announced a boycott of the Disney Corporation because they believed the company promoted a homosexual agenda.

Although the boycott did little or no damage to Disney’s profits, the action drew attention to its power. It focuses public attention on a controversial cause such as animal rights, conservation, business, and even governmental issues. 

Powerful governments who want to chastise other governments for their abuse of human rights will often boycott that country’s imports. Sadly, the boycott illustrates the power of the pocketbook. One such event now unfolds in Georgia where the state government has passed legislation that may make voting more difficult for many people.

When this happened, officials for Major League Baseball cancelled the All-Star game scheduled for that state. The league viewed Georgia’s actions as designed to discriminate against certain demographics, thus restricting people’s ability to vote. Georgia’s governor and other state officials responded with anger and indignation, saying the baseball commission’s decision would unfairly harm Georgia’s economy. 

Georgia’s legislature seemed to forget that decisions often produce unwanted consequences. One person’s (or organization’s) decision should not necessitate another’s accommodation. Making arbitrary decisions in our best interest may result in others doing the same thing.

During my teaching career, I tried to teach my high school and college students the importance of consequences. Failure to do homework or study will result in poor grades. Skipping class will result in poor grades and other consequences related to legal requirements for class attendance. Bullying results in punishment. 

Unfortunately, too many people think they can live their lives without regard for others. It just doesn’t work that way. Consequences mean people may “give as good as they get.”

 Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing


  • Sandy Parish-Tompkins

    Another wonderful article! Thank you for the reminder of how things are and were. I didn’t go through any of this but I know that you did. Love you cousin!


  • I for one am glad Mike moved you from Waco to Abilene because otherwise I would never have met you! I imagine that decision turned out to be a good one for you both professionally and personally.


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