How many times have you heard the expression quoted in the above title? A corollary to it (from the opposite perspective) is, "Oh, go ahead and try it. Doing it just one time won't kill you." This type of insistence is usually followed with name-calling epithets, such as, "Chicken!" Well, what is the truth of the matter? Is it all right to try anything once?

The fact is that once may be too many times to have experienced--getting drunk, for example. On Friday, September 26th, a father wrote a guest column in the Denton Record-Chronicle on behalf of his son who faces an eight-year prison term for what he did while he was drunk "for the first time in his life" (14A).

Our purpose here is not to argue against the man who wrote the article (page three will provide a refutation); it is likely that there are few parents who would not feel exactly the same way he does. Our goal, rather, is to show the seriousness of giving in to temptation--even once!

First, for those who know ___ as only a name in the newspaper, he is not a criminal. He has never had an alcohol habit, and he is not a drunk driver. He is a sober, responsible, well-mannered, loving, and law abiding young man I am proud to call my son, and he is as bewildered as anyone at the events of August 10, 1996. And please don’t take my word for his character. Speak to any of his many friends, teachers, etc.

Yes, he chose to drink that night and for the first time in his life became very drunk. He was the only minor at a private home in the company of adults who themselves should have been more responsible, but instead played drinking games with him and encouraged him (as they testified).

Yes, he was behind the wheel of a pickup that caused an accident which killed _____ _______ and injured _______ ______. But did he “choose” to drive? Alcohol blackout is a genuine phenomenon where people do things unconsciously. Think about it. A 17-year-old youth who rarely drinks imbibes to a .2 alcohol level, passes out, and is put to bed. Later, he arises, leaves the house totally nude, takes off in a pickup he has never driven (whose owner left the keys in it), and minutes after the accident is found passed out by police who testified he was extremely disoriented and did not know where he was and how he got there (14A).

In a later paragraph the father laments: "A very fine young man faces eight years in prison because of an hour's unconsciousness out of 17 years while real repeat drunk drivers get probation...." In the last paragraph the father says, "A lengthy prison sentence...because of an hour's unconscious and uncharacteristic behavior is harsh indeed."

Of course, this column is written from only one perspective; it also raises questions that go unanswered, too, but we will assume it is accurate. First of all (even though this is not the point of this article), those who encouraged the boy to drink and left keys in a pickup truck ought to share a major portion of the blame. If legally they were not accomplices, they were (at the very least) stumbling blocks, Biblically (Luke 17:1-2).

Tragically, however, the young man must be punished for his actions. It gives no one any great pleasure to say such a thing, and certainly we want to avoid a self-righteous spirit, but surely people in today's world are aware of the possibilities for harm that exist BEFORE they begin drinking.

Have they not heard of incidents such as the fraternity party in which a student (due to his inebriation) fell over the railing of a second story apartment and died (which happened to a Bradley University student in Peoria)? Have they never heard of the high school student who died in the swimming pool at a graduation party hosted by parents (where alcohol was served)? Or maybe they never heard of a situation in which a senior class was on a camping field trip and contrary to specific instructions brought alcohol along (just to make it more "lively"); unfortunately one of the students awoke during the night and in his still-disoriented state walked over a cliff to his death.

Surely, every community experiences tragedies like these; they do not just happen in Illinois. These aside, however, how often is it that a situation like the one under discussion happens? It is only the first time that it occurs, but the first time can be deadly. Yes, there are some who may have been arrested several times for driving under the influence, but they were fortunate enough not to have killed or injured someone.

Inequities in the system can always be found: Once a high school principal (again, in Peoria, Illinois) was arrested for having a blood alcohol content of .2, and the jury did not even convict him of violating the law! But he did not kill or injure anyone, either.

The first reaction that alcohol has on the body is to limit one's good judgment. The more that one consumes, the less likelihood there is of retaining any moral sense at all. Any person who decides to drink alcoholic beverages is (in effect) saying, "I refuse to be responsible for my behavior. I don't care what I say or do for the next few hours."

Someone will say, "Oh, this is silly. I've been to a lot of drinking parties, and nothing has ever happened." Really? No one became mad and got into a brawl? No young woman ever became pregnant because her usual amount of resistance to fornication was low? We may think the odds are in our favor that nothing bad will happen, but how many times does someone have to lose control of a car or truck to change or ruin his own or someone else's life forever? Of what value is it if it happens the 123rd time you indulge instead of the first?

According to a recent study, reported in The Dallas Morning News on September 21, the average rate of alcohol-related traffic fatalities nationally last year was 40.9%, which is a decrease from the sixties and seventies. But in Texas the rate was 53.2% (36A).

And how often is alcohol involved in violent behavior? How many shootings have happened after a booze-induced argument? Many other instances could be cited, but these are sufficient to make the point--when an individual begins imbibing, no one can predict what the end result is going to be.

We can sympathize to some degree with the person who got drunk just one time; we may call him unfortunate; we may tell him it was tough luck that the series of events which involved him occurred; we may even lament his prison term; but the lion's share of sympathy must go out to the victim--to the innocent person who will never see another sunrise, attend a party, or have an opportunity to repent of sins and obey the gospel. The parents of this individual deserve consolation for the loss of their child. The person who perhaps is paralyzed because of the accident deserves much more support than the one who only made this one bad decision. After the inebriated teenager has served his eight years, some of his victims may still be imprisoned in bed for life.

The Bible teaches the importance of avoiding even one bad decision. How many times did Eve eat the forbidden fruit? The entire world has been affected by that one bad decision. King David, who is described as being a man after God's own heart, only one time decided to take another man's wife and kill her husband. And he didn't even do that until after the age of 40. Should all those years of faithful service not count for anything? He did repent of those sins, but he still suffered the consequences of them.

Gehazi was the faithful servant of Elisha, and for just one lapse of judgment God appointed unto him the leprosy that had left Naaman. Delilah asked Samson several times where the source of his strength was; he only told her the correct answer once. Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it on only one occasion, but it was enough to keep him out of the promised land. Pharaoh only gave the command for his army to pursue Israel into the sea once.

It only takes one time to overdose on drugs if a "friend" persuades you to try something. It only takes one time (as many women have written to Ann Landers) to believe the word of a fiance that sex with him will be safe. How many have contracted various venereal diseases (or even AIDS) by making just one bad decision?

The point is that we must guard against choosing to do something wrong even once. No matter how many times someone says, "Just do it" or taunts you with, "Chicken," there is only one right response: NO! Tell them you have thought over the consequences of such an action very carefully, and that the risks outweigh any temporary pleasure. It is better to avoid doing some things even one time. "My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent" (Pr. 1:10).

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "I'LL TRY ANYTHING ONCE ()."

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