My cyber friend, David, has a problem.
His parents divorced when he was little. He and his brother lived
with his mother in Kenya, where she worked hard to provide food, a home and
a family for her boys, with precious little help or support from their
"Our life was hard, but there was much love in our home," David said.
But recently, David's father has re-entered their lives. "Now he
wants to be our father," David said. "He says he is sorry he left us, and
he wants to be with us."
David is now 25, and is still searching for something to do with his
life. His father wants to take him into his thriving business. After a
lifetime of struggle and want, David's father holds out to him a glimmer of
hope for a secure future. "He seems to be sincere in his desire to make
things right with us," David says. "To have a job, to have a father -- it
But perhaps not to David's mother. He hasn't said much about how she
feels about the sudden re-emergence of her ex-husband. But it's pretty
clear that she's at least threatened, if not outright outraged. David
feels that he has to make a choice between loyalty to his mother, who has
been there for him all his life, and forgiveness for his father, who may
represent his hope for the future.
"I ask you for advice," he writes to me. "I do not wish to offend my
mother, especially not after all she has done for me. But my religion
teaches me to forgive all men -- including my father."
Loyalty or forgiveness -- which is the greater value?
It seems to me that life's most difficult choices are not between
right and wrong. Ultimately, those calls are pretty easy to make. But
choosing between cherished virtues puts our souls on trial.
My wife, Anita, has been a full-time homemaker for most of the 22
years that we've been married. It's the only career she's ever really
wanted, and she's very good at it. If I were as good at my work as she is
at hers, we'd be fabulously wealthy. But I'm not and we're not, which
bring us to something else Anita values: financial integrity. Several
years ago she took over our finances (I'm sort of an idiot when it comes to
money, in the same sense that Slobodan Milosevic is sort of an idiot when
it comes to human rights). She has done a remarkable job of keeping us
solvent and up-to-date. It's important to her that we pay our obligations,
and that we pay them on time.
I'm amazed that she's been able to do it so well -- until this year.
She somehow managed to get us through last year's unemployment crisis.
She even kept us going through the loss of a major monthly freelance fee
earlier this year. But when our two eldest children announced that not
only were they both going to be married this year, but both weddings were
going to take place in June -- well, our financial structure, already
tenuous, crumbled like a house of credit cards.
Anita had to make a choice between two things she valued. If she
continued to stay home full-time, we wouldn't be able to pay our
obligations (including our share of two weddings). But if she went to work
outside the home, she would miss important time with our three remaining
children. It was a tough choice between positive virtues, requiring much
thought, discussion and prayer.
I'm not going to tell you what she chose. That's not the point. But
I will tell you that it has worked out pretty well. We've had to make some
sacrifices, and there have been some tough times. But things have a way of
working out when you make values-based decisions. It's like I told David:
"Trust your instincts. Listen to God speak to your heart. You'll know
which choice is right."
Even when both choices are right.