I was in a checkout line at a grocery store when I heard two girls talking about climbing a nearby mountain. “I hate climbing,” said one of the girls. “It’s a whole lot easier to come down than to go up.” Being the quiet, reserved type who would never even think of talking to strangers, I barged in and pointed out that she had just recited one of the basic laws of living. Whatever your context, down is always easier than up.
Down, as a matter of fact, requires virtually no effort at all. This can be proven by dropping a ball from the roof of a ten-story building-the amount of effort required is minimal. Then, go down to the ground and throw that same ball the same distance in the UP direction, if you can. Next, try climbing the stairs in that building, all the way to the top, as fast as you can. After catching your breath, go down those stairs just as fast. I guarantee you’ll agree that down is easier than up.
This phenomenon isn’t just a matter of gravity. In fact, I suspect that the law of gravity works because of the more profound law that any form of down is easier than any form of up. Consider your bank balance, for example. It’s a lot easier to spend money than to save it. Our bodies are the same way-it’s much easier to get weak and fat than to stay strong and skinny. As soon as you bathe, you begin getting dirty again, without even thinking about it, and the only solution is to bathe again periodically (or avoid socialization). It takes considerable effort to construct a house, but no effort whatsoever is required for that house to deteriorate-all that’s required is time. In order to prevent that deterioration, a substantial, pro-active effort is required. Down is always easier than up.
This law of life isn’t anything new. In 1 Corinthians 15:33, Paul stated it clearly: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'” (1 Cor 15:33, NIV). It’s just as easy for our moral and ethical standards to deteriorate as it is for that house to deteriorate. All you have to do is sit back and do nothing, and deterioration will naturally happen, thanks to the basically sinful nature of mankind. We’d like to think that it works the other way, but it doesn’t. When a healthy person is in a room full of folks with bad colds, the healthy person doesn’t spread health to the sick, the sick ones spread the cold to the healthy. If the healthy person is taking pro-active steps to improve their immune system and stay healthy, the likelihood of their catching that cold is much lower, and if they do catch it, they will recover faster. Likewise, the only way to maintain high moral and ethical standards is to actively reinforce those standards on a daily basis. As soon as you stop pushing them up, they will naturally tend to go down.
Our standards usually deteriorate slowly, without being noticed. It’s just like that new car of yours-one day, you suddenly notice that it’s not new anymore. It’s lost the new car smell, and gained a few scratches and dings. Though it used to start flawlessly and purr like a kitten, now it’s a bit more stubborn on those cold mornings, hesitates and knocks a bit when you stomp on the gas, and idles a little rough. You pull into the parking lot at the mall, and there’s a car just like yours that looks like it just pulled out of the showroom, even though it’s five years old. The difference is that the other car’s owner has maintained it better than you have maintained yours. When it was scratched, they buffed that scratch out. When it got dinged, they went to the dent shop and got it fixed. They have the engine tuned up and the oil changed on the schedule recommended by the factory. They put in the effort required to offset that natural downward tendency, and the difference shows.
Do your moral standards need a tune-up? Got a few scratches and dings in your ethics? Maybe you need to start a daily maintenance plan, setting aside time to consult the scriptures-and their author-and make that pro-active effort to overcome that natural downward tendency.
Down is easy – but it’s still down.