I’ve been watching a trend among some of the people I work with—they are playing with fire in their relationships. But I can’t help but wonder, can you really play with fire and not get burned?
One young man reported having unprotected sex, just hoping he wouldn’t get anyone pregnant or acquire any sexually transmitted diseases. This is an unconscious form of Russian roulette.
A woman and her husband became really close friends with another couple. When attractions arose between each other’s spouses, they fueled the temptations thinking the feelings could all be contained. Their choices ultimately destroyed their marriage.
A young woman was drinking with a man she met in a bar and went to his hotel room thinking that they could just “hang out” together. She was surprised when that wasn’t what he was expecting and dismayed at how difficult it was to get out safely. This decision completely damaged her boyfriend’s trust in her.
A man was hanging out in bars with his buddies, pretending to be single, flirting, and dancing with women while simultaneously engaged to be married. The lack of integrity between his actions and his words created crippling anxiety.
I was once leading a relationship workshop when I asked, “What rules do you live by?” as we explored our own personal codes of conduct. One man raised his hand and answered, “Don’t get caught!” much to his wife’s dismay.
While it may be possible to get away with some choices for a while, it is highly likely that with some eventuality cause and effect will kick in. Either that or hormones will. Either that or “the universe” will kick you in the rear with a frightening, if not life-altering, wake up call screaming, “Yes, what you do makes a difference!” Eventually you will realize that the impact of what you do is a direct result of the little choices that you make.
While I appreciate the “I can handle it” kind of thinking, we need to distinguish between positive thinking and risky thinking. How do you tell the difference? Look ahead to where they may lead. Evaluate the likely consequences. See if playing with matches might lead to starting an uncontained fire.
Positive thinking leads toward accomplishing your goals, creating healthy relationships, and living in integrity. Risky thinking leads to getting away with it (or not), trying not to get caught, or being lucky (or unlucky). Positive thinking encourages living in alignment you’re your values and goals. Risky thinking may involve law breaking, agreement breaking or integrity breaking.
Positive thinking is open, not hidden. Risky thinking usually comes with some level of secrecy (aka shame or embarrassment).
For a long time I used to imagine what the newspaper headlines would be if the results of my behavior turned bad. When presented with a situation, I would imagine how I would feel the next day if the newspaper reported my behavior and any unintended consequences. You know, those stories in the news where you find yourself wondering, “What was she thinking when she decided to do that?” or “Well, what did he expect was going to happen?” “Headline thinking” kept me out of a lot of trouble.
Now, it is not that we won’t all take some calculated risks from time to time, but if you are living a lifestyle of risky behaviors, or ignoring the very likely result of your behavior, make sure you are willing to accept the consequences. Even more importantly, that you are willing to accept responsibility for the consequences. If you are the one playing with fire, avoid the temptation to blame others when your life goes up in flames.
Instead of playing with fire, consider using that fire to light some romantic candles with your sweetheart, or some incense in your shrine, or a campfire around which your friends and family gather to enjoy the warmth. Bask in the light of your choices.