5/23/13

Decision-making - With or Without God?

The topic of choices has been one of my favorite occupations since childhood. I've always been intrigued - ever since I studied the life of the biblical Solomon - by the way people's decisions send them down different paths. The choices we make between wisdom and foolishness are crucial and they design our lives.

When Michael Hyatt promoted a new book by the brothers Chip and Dan Heath on his blog, he got my attention. I will admit that I  have not yet read Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, so I can't comment much about the content. But I would like to respond to some excerpts from the book that Hyatt quoted.

According to the Heath brothers, "When it comes to making decisions, it's clear that our brains are flawed instruments." I'd like to know how they define "flawed," and expect that when I read their book, I'll understand what they mean.

But I don't believe human minds were always flawed. Adam and Eve made a foolish, willful choice, but I don't believe their minds were darkened before the Fall. The mind, emotions and will were all damaged by the entrance of sin into the world.

But let me go on to their understanding of "the problem."

The authors, Hyatt explains, point out the "four villains" when it comes to making decisions. Though I don't claim to be as brilliant as these men, I do want to make some observations.

First, they say, "We have too narrow (a) focus. We are guilty of 'spotlight thinking.' We focus on the obvious and visible. We miss important facts outside our immediate view."

I'd agree, totally, but from this perspective. We are merely human. We are not God. We don't live in the outer spans of eternity; we're stuck in the here and now. But we can know God and learn His wisdom. Wisdom, in fact, is seeing life from the eternal perspective of God, the ultimate authority and ultimate standard.

The Heaths suggest, in a first step to counteracting the villains in the decision-making process - "Widen your options." Yes, we do need to think outside the box and unleash our creativity. But the scriptures tell us "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). There are options outside mere human thinking and "the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."

Their second villain is, "We fall into confirmation bias. We develop a quick belief about something and then seek out information that confirms that belief."

All of us have a worldview. And we all have a tendency to seek information that validates that worldview. We can be more open-minded, certainly, but the Christian will always be wise to filter information through the Word of God. Before we make a decision, we should ask, does this new idea or information align with scripture? the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19-20; Colossians 2:8). The Heaths say, "Reality-test your assumptions." What better reality is there than the truth and wisdom principles of the Bible?

Third, they say, "We get caught in short-term emotion. We are too emotionally connected to the decision and struggle with being appropriately detached."

I would agree there. They say, "Attain distance before deciding." And that is where I think prayer makes a difference for the believer. We can step back and trust the One who knows all things for guidance when we are frustrated, confused, paralyzed with fear or lacking confidence. We can ask God for clear direction and wisdom (Psalm 25:4; James 1:5). We can hand over our decision to Him, pray for direction, and either wait patiently for His leading or move forward when He makes the next step clear. Trust and acknowledging God's control are key responses in decision-making (Proverbs 3:5-6).

And finally, the Heath brothers say, "We are guilty of overconfidence. We assume that we know more than we actually do know and jump to conclusions, thinking we can accurately predict the future."

I'd really agree there. Proverbs 3:7 tells us "Be not wise in your own eyes." Our pride can cause us to make wrong decisions. The Heaths do say, "Prepare to be wrong." The problem is, overconfidence - or even powerful self-confidence - will never take us as far as God-confidence. Our thinking is weak, limited and temporal compared to the wisdom of God. Making decisions based on the Word, will, and ways of God will encourage spirit of humility and teachability in us. And those are good attitudes to have in the decision-making process.

Let me hasten to say that I am eager to read Decisive, because I think it will offer many positive tools and strategies to help people (myself included) make better choices. But I'm going to admit right now that I have four perspectives.  

When making decisions as a biblical Christian:
  1. I rely on the authority, standards and character of God.
  2. I seek the wisdom of God in the scriptures (and through godly counsel).
  3. I pray with a spirit of surrender and expectancy.
  4. I realize my needs and come to God with a humble, teachable spirit.

I think those are good choices for making all decisions. Wouldn't you agree?



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