WWYD (What would you do)

Last fall, in Spanish, we worked on the conditional sense. We spent an entire class answering hypothetical questions, “What would you do if…”

One question was an imaginary situation where you broke something very expensive and it cost your employer money, but nobody knew it was you. Most of the people in my language lab were idealistic 20-year-olds and quick to say that they would confess. I think it’s my age, not my writer-brain, but I first wanted clarification.

“Will I lose the job, and it’s my last hope?”
“Are my kids starving?”
“Is it under an unfair regime, the job is not my choice, and they’ll kill me for failure?”

Of course, I do not have that much vocabulary so I said I’d confess as well. I normally have a strong sense of choosing right. I know that in the end, I stand before God alone and he sees all actions and motives. But as for what I would do (besides failing a pre-employment personality test for being honest) there are some circumstances where I might not confess. It’s easy to be brave when pain and loss are hypothetical.

A hopeful missionary once told me a story about a jungle pastor’s confrontation while crossing a bridge. The people he was ministering to grabbed his baby from his wife’s arms and said, “Deny your god or we’ll throw him into the river.” The pastor refused. They chucked the baby off the cliff. The pastor and wife followed the river and found the baby unharmed. The hopeful missionary proclaimed his confidence (while his wife bit her lip) that he would do exactly the same thing.

I don’t remember the exact quote, but something I heard Brené Brown say had to do with imagining worst-case scenarios. She said they only steal your present joy. People who have received that life-changing phone call affirm that no amount of imagining scenarios benefited them when the crisis arrived.

However, there’s something to be said for mentally practicing what you would do. In martial arts, we constantly talked out scenarios and tried to train our body to react. The philosophy was that under adrenaline and stress, your thinking brain shuts down, and the animal brain takes over. It takes enormous practice to retain fine motor control in a situation like that—so physical training is better applied to gross motor control and learning how to function with adrenaline. Nevertheless, even with free-sparring practice, during the first fight I saw in high school, I just stood there dumbstruck.

There’s a skinny difference between prepping and worrying.

When you’re dealing with potentially volatile situations, like confronting an abuser or interacting with a destructive person, it can be really helpful to run through scenarios and practice responding. We create much of our own reality, so having a plan makes you proactive rather than reactive.

  • Emotionally prepare by removing expectations* of a positive encounter.
  • Mentally prepare by planning what you will say, so you do not repay evil for evil just because it’s your normal mode.
  • Spiritually prepare by prayer. Put on the full armor of God because you have an enemy who wants to destroy and will use anyone possible.

If the person is unsafe, consider having a mediator or an escape plan.

But for end-of-life or divine appointments, I don’t think you can fully know what you will do. Just lean into the Holy Spirit as much as possible and pray you’ll have the train ticket when it is time to board. Christ told his disciples that when the time came, the Holy Spirit would give them words. I’ve experienced having words I didn’t prepare myself. I once planned intensely for an encounter and when I was there—I couldn’t remember a single word. A seemingly ignorant phrase kept coming out of my mouth instead of all the wisdom I thought I’d bring. Later, the woman told me all she heard was (that phrase) and it was all she needed.

How do you separate training/prepping from worrying? And have you ever seen the Holy Spirit show up and provide the right words?

*Removing expectations is not defeatism. It’s releasing things you cannot control for your own joy, and allowing others to have the choice. Tow’rs, one of my favorite bands sings, “Expectation is the currency of fools, and I spent it on you.” It’s often on my mind so I’ll leave you with it:

One thought on “WWYD (What would you do)

  1. Angela says:

    I do think preparing takes a lot of thought and time. Intentionality. Worrying seems to just take up the free space in my brain. No effort needed. I really appreciate you breaking down the components of preparing. And there are so many situations I cannot fathom that will happen. Leaning on the Holy Spirit and trusting God to intercede is definitely easier the more time I spend in His word and His presence. But I think my memories of His words coming out of my mouth happened more in my youth when I was less educated in His word and my faith was more raw and naked than my sophisticated faith is now. Hmmm. I think I will ponder this a bit.

Please share your heart. We learn from each other.