I am possibly the WORST DECISION MAKER IN THE WHOLE WORLD.* It is comical except when it’s crippling and pathetic. Restaurants often cause mini existential crises, such as the following:
But I am getting a teeny, tiny bit better, and I’m going to share with you how I am improving.
This is actually the first draft of my best-selling self-help book, the cover of which will feature a large picture of me, jauntily resting my chin on my fist. I will be unrecognizably made-up under a title that says something like Make a Decision: Four Strategies to Make Decisions with Confidence, Not That I’m Preying on Your Insecurities To Secure Massive Royalties, or Anything.
Here are four reasons you and I can make decisions. Each is a summarized point from a brilliant writer. This is just another sneaky technique of mine to get away with not having to manufacture original thoughts.
1. KEEPING YOUR OPTIONS OPEN IS IDOLATRY AND ALSO A WAY TO BE A BIG FAT CHICKEN
Barry Cooper recently wrote an excellent blog for Desiring God called “The Problem of Your Choices.” In it, he argues that a multiplicity of options is not freedom but actually enslavement,because a lot of us end up serving the idol he terms “the god of open options.” Basically, we have intense FOMO because we think that the second we commit, we will discover that the other option was better.
Here’s the thing though. As Cooper says, “The god of open options is also a liar. He promises you that by keeping your options open, you can have everything and everyone. But in the end, you get nothing and no one.” Why do you end up with nothing? “We have been like the starving man sitting in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet, dying simply because he would not choose between the chicken and the shrimp.” I find that simile particularly apt because that COULD ACTUALLY BE ME STARVING AT A BUFFET.
He also points out that not choosing really is choosing. It’s choosing to not believe that God is powerful enough to redeem any situation. Guess what? You’re wrong. He is.
2. STOP BLAMING THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR YOUR INACTION
You know of what I speak. We waver because we’re not sure where “the Spirit is leading us.” Here’s where he’s leading you: avoid sin and then gird your loins and make a decision. As Cooper states, “[T]here comes a point when pausing [for wisdom] becomes procrastination.”
I’m about to drop a very freeing truth bomb on you. I have been reading Good News for Anxious Christians by Phillip Cary, and if you grew up anywhere close to an evangelical church, you at least need to give this book serious thought.
Cary argues very strongly for “the Lord wanting us to make our own decisions and even our own mistakes, rather than ask him what to do”(70). Before you stone me for writing this, please pick up his book. It’s really well thought-out and argued, and in this post I’m simply giving you his conclusions, and not really his reasoning. But here’s one example he draws from the parable of the talents; who’s in trouble in that parable? The one who is too afraid to decide how to invest, because he thinks his master is a hard man and he’s afraid of disappointing him. God wants us to use our wisdom to make good decisions, but He knows we will make mistakes. Oftentimes mistakes aren’t sinful. So it’s okay to use your adult wisdom faculties and make the best decision you can, knowing it won’t be a perfect decision.
3. IN 100 YEARS IT’S NOT GOING TO MATTER/WE’LL ALL BE DEAD ANYWAY
My parents used to say this to us when we were agonizing over decisions as kids, and I can’t say it was very comforting. But when I was teaching in China, I ran across this fascinating TED talk, "The Surprising Science of Happiness," by Dan Gilbert.
In the talk, he explains that people overrate the effect that decisions or events will have on their lives. Here is an excerpt:
From field studies to laboratory studies, we see that winning or losing an election, gaining or losing a romantic partner, getting or not getting a promotion, passing or not passing a college test, on and on, have far less impact, less intensity and much less duration than people expect them to have. This almost floors me -- a recent study showing how major life traumas affect people suggests that if it happened over three months ago, with only a few exceptions, it has no impact whatsoever on your happiness.
So you don’t even have to wait to die to soften the blow of your decisions; it will probably only take you three months not to care! If you look back on your life, I think you’ll find this is true in most cases. And if this is true for things like “major life traumas” (including, according to a study, becoming paraplegic!) how much more true is this of dumb little things?
This has been very helpful to me, especially as I transition back to America and the billion choices that come with it. In fact, I have realized that usually about two minutes post-decision, I don’t even care about what I just spent 20 minutes agonizing over. So, on the front end, I have found it very helpful to tell myself, “This food/restaurant/Netflix choice will not actually make me happy!” And with very few exceptions (some food is just really delicious) this has been true!
So to sum up: stupid little things don’t actually have the power to make you happy. Big things don’t affect you that much either. To really get into this this self-help theme, let me tell you that YOU have much more power to make you happy than ice cream does.
4. YOU REALLY WILL BE DEAD IN 100 YEARS AND THAT’S A MERCY.
In moments of indecision crisis, we tend to subconsciously believe that our ultimate happiness is linked to this decision. But as Paul David Tripp points out in his book New Morning Mercies, we were made to live with “eternity in view,” but we are super bad at this. He explains:
Life does shrink to the moment again and again…There are moments when our happiness and contentment shrink to getting those new shoes or to the steak that is just ten minutes away. There are moments when who we are, who God is, and where this whole thing is going shrink into the background of our thoughts, emotions, and needs of the moment. (Jan 3)
But the great thing about being designed to live with eternity in view is that:
If God granted you a place in eternity, then he has also granted all the grace you need along the way, or you’d never get there. There is grace for our fickle and easily distracted hearts. There is rescue for our self-absorption and lack of focus. The God of eternity grants you his eternal grace so you can live with eternity in view. (Jan 3)
Learning how to make decisions is really important. I know, because I have personally tortured myself with indecision for years. If just one of these things helps you, that’d would be great. Also please message me and tell me which one so I know what to focus on for my best-selling self-help book.
*I would also like to point out that neither of my parents have any problems making decisions and are in fact, normal people. So unfortunately I can’t blame them for this.