“Halt! Who goes there?” demands the sentry, manning the outpost. The guard’s duty is to protect the fort, building or camp. He has the firepower to back it up. “Halt! Don’t go any further!” And deciding to go any further would be a big mistake. You’ve probably seen a similar scene in a war movie or an action drama on TV. But since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, you could possibly see that above scenario at almost every U.S. military installation.
You don’t hear the word ‘halt’ used much anymore. It simply means “to stop.” Sometimes in our lives, we are in situations where we need to stop. Like the interaction with the guard, to go any further would be a bad decision. It would be a good time to remember an acronym for the word, ‘halt.’ In other words, be careful about your actions and decisions when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. (HALT)
Hungry. We all know not to go to the grocery store when we are hungry. We buy more and spend more. And most of what we overspend will be on junk food, like chips and ice cream. In the Bible, Esau came in from hunting, and was hungry. He said he was starving. He ended up trading his birthright (a really big deal in that Jewish culture) to his brother Jacob for a bowl of bean soup. Not a very wise decision.
But that dangerous hunger can be for other desires. You may be ‘starving’ for that new car, and overspend at the dealership. The hunger may be for clothing, furniture, etc. It will be a good idea to sleep on it tonight. Your appetite probably won’t be as strong tomorrow morning.
Angry. We all know that we usually end up making bad decisions when we are angry. But yet we have all done it. We’ve said things to loved ones we shouldn’t have said. Rash decisions are made concerning work because of frustration and anger. An employee quits a job in anger, or lashes out at the boss. And sometimes those burnt bridges can’t ever be repaired.
Lonely. Being alone is not necessarily being lonely. And a person can be in a crowd and feel like the loneliest person in the world. A lonely person will often make unwise decisions and take actions inorder to overcome that feeling. They may end up in an unhealthy relationship, or in places where they normally would never be.
Tired. It’s hard to make any decision when you are tired. After a long day working, you don’t even want to have to decide where to go eat supper. “I don’t care, let’s just go somewhere!” If you are physically exhausted, you are probably also mentally exhausted. So it’s probably not a wise time to make major decisions.
Now those feelings mentioned above are not necessarily bad. Hunger tells you that it’s time to nourish your body. Sometimes it’s right to be angry, especially when people are being mistreated and there is injustice. Jesus did get angry and forcibly remove the corrupt moneychangers from the temple. Loneliness can turn a person from self-centeredness to reaching out to others. And being tired is often your body simply telling you that you need to rest.
But when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, it is probably not a good time to make a decision, especially a major decision. It is a time to ‘halt.’ Realize that you are possibly being tempted to make your choice because of those feelings. And the immediate gratification that those feelings demand can lead to problems down the road. Also, there are very few decisions that must be made immediately. Realizing that those feelings are there, and delaying a decision can avoid some very negative consequences. It’s wise to pray about it, sleep on it, and see how things look in the morning.
If you have been around awhile, you made some decisions you have regretted. (OK, I’m the only one.) But if you did, think back to how you were feeling when you made that choice. There’s a good chance that you had been hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Looking back, it was the case for me. It would have been nice if there had been a big guard standing there with an AK-47 saying, “Halt!” Maybe I would have listened.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]