Something about the switch and the dial

Something about the switch and the dial

Around thirty years ago, I stopped eating meat. The ultimate cold turkey. Ate it one day, didn’t eat it the next. That was 1986. Never touched the stuff since – excepting a strange moment driving down Canning Highway in 2005 when I mistakenly took a bite out of the wrong burger.

Some would say my decision in 1986 was the worst I’ve ever made, but this isn’t about defending dietary preferences of relatively low import. And, seriously, I’ve made worse decisions!

This is about the switch and the dial, and knowing which to use and when.

1986 was a ‘switch’ moment for me.

Most people will know someone (or be someone) who was at one time completely passionate about something and suddenly wasn’t. It could have been some club, cause, particular food, or even a church community. Perhaps it was some exercise or even a dietary regime but, suddenly, it was no more. Having pursued it with a zeal approaching zealotry and an evangelical passion they never seemed to have mustered for anything else, they quit.

Disappeared without a trace.

This is the switch. Two options: on and off. 100 miles an hour or stationary. They once lived for T-bone steaks and, nek minute, it was dead to them.

This often strikes me as strange and sometimes a little sad. After all, it was good yesterday, what happened? When the passion was so unequivocal that those who aren’t on-board are considered infidels and then the tables turn, I’m left wondering how authentic the passion or how legitimate the derision, when it can suddenly leave the building without a trace.

I understand epiphanies (Paul’s ‘Road to Damascus’ experience is one of the all-time great ‘switches’). I also understand that you can have so much of something that it triggers an aversion that can last some time. I had a temporary aversion to beetroot one time.

I’ve come to realise along the way that when an individual switches something ‘off’, it’s as much a reflection of the individual as it is on the goodness or otherwise of what’s been switched off. Sometimes the thing being switched ‘off’ is brimming with life or the potential of life.

A switch can be useful. Sometimes difficult to locate, but useful nonetheless. For someone with a nicotine or alcohol addiction, a switch is an answer to prayer. Finding an off switch for a negative or destructive behaviour is a beautiful thing. If you’ve found something debilitating for you, finding its off switch will bring sweet freedom.

There’s another moderator from the switch altogether, though, and it’s worth considering its merits.

The dial.

With a dial, your options aren’t limited to on and off; they’re more nuanced.

It’s never a good long term option to flick the switch on food, or water, or exercise, or relationships, or on things that bring life. But the dial? The dial is a good ally.

A runner who’s been ticking over 15-20 kilometres each week may begin to dial things up a little because something changes. There may be an event, a training crew, a distance goal or something altogether intrinsic, but whatever it is, it becomes a trigger for ramping things up. Whatever the reason, you’re dialling things up.

Here’s an observation about the switch and the dial: It’s far easier to dial up something good that you’re already doing than to switch something on that’s been off for a long time. The latter is by no means impossible, but it’s harder.

As an unfortunate aside, sometimes you’re handed a switch when it was a dial that you would have preferred. An injury or a relationship break-up are two pretty good examples of that scenario in action.

When it comes to inherently good things, you need to exchange your switches for dials. When it comes to inherently bad or destructive behaviours, you need to exchange your dials for switches. And turn them off.

A lack of understanding of the principle of the switch and the dial will cause a lot of people to stop doing good things, and many more to continue some things that are causing them harm.

Sometimes this has to do with a myopic view of their capacity and a thoughtless allocation of the resource of time. After all, if you turn something off that was bringing you life, you have less life.

You’ll see the switch and dial in operation in God’s Word, too.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

That’s a switch. ‘Choose life’.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives right now. (Titus 2:11-12)

That’s a switch. ‘Say ‘no’ to ungodliness’.

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)
That’s a classic ‘dial’ verse, right there.

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, more and more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)

That’s a dial verse. It both encourages the increase of a good thing and reminds us that it’s not an ‘on’ or ‘off’, but a ‘more and more’.

To increase in wisdom is to increase in our discerning of which moderating device we need to apply in each area of our lives.

I feel as though I’ve encouraged far more people to exchange their switches for dials than I have vice versa.

Life happens. Sometimes it throws curve balls or commitment spikes that trigger a ‘switch’ reaction. Work gets dialed up and you respond by switching ‘off’ exercise and healthy eating. Well, you don’t have to. You may need to dial it down for a season but to switch it off would be bad thinking. Based on our earlier rule of ‘dial for good things’, you only ever want to be using a dial for exercise.

If there’s a little list worth considering, it’s the one that contains those areas in which you’ve used a switch but should replace it with a dial.

We should do that more and more.

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