How Do You Make Decisions?
EVERYONE has to make decisions. Some are quite easy and even pleasant to make, such as what clothes to wear, what entertainment to enjoy, or what friends to choose. Others are more difficult and some are very unpleasant. Emotional entanglements make many decisions hard. Young people, “head over heels” in love, find themselves up against the barrier of different social status or different religion and wonder what to do for the best. A man or a woman with an unfaithful marriage partner wonders whether to try to pick up the pieces and start again or to sue for divorce.
With such a variety of problems facing people, it is not surprising that they have many ways of making decisions. Some do what appeals to them most at the moment, or take the course offering immediate benefits, or the path of least resistance. Others do what their friends or family would have them do. So what is the best way to make decisions?
Many decisions involve matters of principle. Sometimes it is quite a simple matter of right or wrong: whether to make true or false tax returns; whether to follow honest or shady business practices. Other decisions may not be clearly matters of right or wrong but still involve principles. In making such decisions it is vital to have a standard to guide you. Otherwise, you will inevitably find your decisions being influenced by tendencies of the flesh, such as selfishness, fear, pride and jealousy, bringing unhappy results.
The finest Standard is God’s Word, the Bible. (Ps. 119:105) It is the accumulated wisdom from Jehovah, the true God, and gives sound guidance in making all kinds of decisions involving right principles. To those who feel the Bible is out of date in relation to modern problems, the wise Solomon answers: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl. 1:9) Principles do not change, and Bible principles apply to our problems today just as well as they applied to the human problems of Solomon’s day. If we would make wise decisions we must know God’s required standard and apply it rightly in solving our problems.
Take the matter of choosing one’s religion, one of the most important decisions and one which each one of us must make. Many automatically choose the religion of their fathers without questioning whether it is right or not. Some join a religion that seems to satisfy their needs or is profitable in their business contacts. Still others make their choice to please their marriage mate or because of the emotional pleadings of an evangelist. But right worship is a matter of what is pleasing to God, not to us. The apostle Paul, who had made a wise choice of religion and who is therefore well qualified to advise us, said: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.” Yes, in religion God comes first. Showing that knowledge of Jehovah is essential in choosing the right religion, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Study God’s Word and “be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will” so that you may make a wise choice of religion.—Eph. 5:10; John 17:3; Col. 1:9.
When making a decision it is always wise to consider the probable outcome, and not only immediate gain. Why throw away something valuable for a temporary pleasure? “There exists a way that is upright before a man, but the ways of death are the end of it afterward.” (Prov. 16:25) Impetuous youth, in particular, has to be on guard against making foolish snap decisions, which can only lead to shame and heartache afterward.
Many of our decisions have far-reaching effects on others and this must be considered, especially by family heads and spiritual overseers. King David failed to consider this when, headily, he numbered the fighting men of Israel contrary to Jehovah’s will, and brought untimely death on seventy thousand of his subjects. What a terrible penalty for one man’s rash decision! (2 Sam. 24:1-15) Marriage partners may at times feel their marriage has reached the breaking point. But a hasty decision to break up might be avoided if they would consider the effect it would have upon their children.
But our making decisions should be influenced chiefly by the knowledge that every single thing we do affects our relationship with God. (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17) For this reason a mature Christian makes his decisions on the basis of not only whether it is right or wrong but whether it will draw him nearer to God or lead him farther away. As Paul expressed it: “All things are lawful; but not all things are advantageous. All things are lawful; but not all things build up.” (1 Cor. 10:23) The Christian’s close, personal relationship with God is his most treasured possession and he will not make any decision that might damage that bond. His attitude is expressed by the words of the psalmist: “I have placed Jehovah in front of me constantly. Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be made to totter.” (Ps. 16:8) One who stays as close as that to God will turn naturally to him in reaching decisions. No matter how hard the decision may be, the knowledge that this is God’s will is sure to strengthen him to go through with it to the end. Decisions made in this way result not simply in temporary pleasure but in real, lasting happiness and satisfaction, because they are pleasing to Jehovah.
These are perilous days in which we have to make many hard decisions, and it calls for clear thinking abilities and a good understanding of God’s Word and its perfect standard. When faced with the need to make a decision, know the principles involved, consider the outcome of each possible course, both for yourself and others who may be affected; but, above all, consider how it will affect your relationship with God. Then you will be able to make right and upbuilding decisions.