Are you wrestling with a decision you need to make, and aren’t sure what you should do? Do you wish the right choice was obvious, but instead feel that each of your options look equally viable?
In James 1:8, we are warned against being double-minded. This means having two opposing views in your mind at the same time. Some people call it cognitive dissonance. What results is inconsistency, vacillation, acting one way today and a different way tomorrow, and having trouble making a decision and sticking with it. No one wants to live like that, but too many of us do. Here are some tips for decision making, and a prayer that will invite God into the process.
1. Get in touch with your deepest longings.
Identify what drains you and what energizes you. Make a list of each. This will help you grow in awareness of what you truly desire and separate it out from others’ expectations of you. Once you’ve made your list, check that your desires, if they came to fruition, would pass the death bed test. In the end, will you consider this thing to be important? Are you choosing a project over people? Accomplishment over relationship? Also note whether or not the things you have listed reflect what God desires most for you. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be happy, but God wants you to pursue the holiness that will provide you with eternal, not just temporal, happiness.
Do those longings pass those two tests? Then look at the decision you face in light of those desires. Which decision leads you closer to those longings becoming your reality?
2. Follow the traffic signal.
Picture a traffic signal with three circles: green, yellow, and red. Now imagine that the red circle is the Word of God. Does the red light come on when you think of making a certain decision? Has the Word of God actually already given you an answer? Don’t move forward if God has already said no in Scripture. No red light? Continue to the next circle.
The yellow circle is godly advice. The key word is godly. As you discuss the decision you face with loved ones, pay attention to the life choices being made by the person you are talking to. Is this person pursuing God? Does this person understand God’s desire that you be holy? Don’t just talk to people who tell you what you want to hear. Seek the advice of people who are spiritually mature and love you enough to speak truthfully. Their yellow light might tell you to slow down. But if they give you a go ahead, move onto the next circle.
The green circle is the feeling in your gut. Over-thinking and over-analysis can be paralyzing. Our fear of failure can prevent us from taking necessary risks. Ask God to help you discern the difference between nervousness (which often accompanies a good decision) and true unrest in your spirit, which is your own life-earned wisdom letting you know you are moving in the wrong direction. Imagine yourself having made the decision. Walk around for a day imagining that was the direction you went. How does it feel?
3. Learn from St. Ignatius of Loyola.
We want to make all our decisions prayerfully. We’re crazy to charge ahead without consulting the One who hung the stars, sees the long-term view with total clarity, and loves us like no other. St. Ignatius of Loyola talks about the importance of praying for confirmation once you’ve made a decision. This prayer takes place before the action of the decision. St. Ignatius also discourages making decisions when you are in a period of spiritual desolation. When everything around you feels hopeless and dark, this is not a good time for change. When that’s your reality, St. Ignatius advises that you make no new decisions. That you wait. The desolation will pass, and clarity will return.
To help you invite God into your decision making, I wrote the Litany of Decision Making. I hope it gives words to the thoughts and feelings swimming in your heart and mind, and carries you down the road to clarity and peace.
With you on the journey,