Making Important Decisions
When difficult, important decisions have to be made, it’s good to have a clear view of our priorities. We need to know the goals we have set and the principles we believe in to help us reach those goals. We look for confirmation of our decisions in our moral reasoning, gut-level feelings, the feedback of others, circumstances around us, and hopefully we look in the Bible and seek answers in prayer. But sometimes things look fuzzy—issues that previously have seemed black and white somehow fade to gray. It’s hard to know at these times what’s best for us, to see what’s the right thing to do. . . . .
If you don’t have clear priorities now, or if you’re not sure what you want or what God wants for you, here is a good way to sort out the pros and cons of a decision. Look at what each choice will produce, inside the people affected by it. We can think of these inner, personal results as “fruits”, and you can learn to become an expert fruit inspector.
It helps to list the good fruits you would want to experience inside yourself, and what you’d want your actions to produce in others. Then you can list the bad fruits, the experiences you would not want to create inside yourself and other people. To help you draw these lists up, you may want to examine the traditional wisdom of the Bible. Using a modern translation, you can look at the lists of good and bad fruits found in these passages: Proverbs 6: 12-19, Galatians 5: 19-23, Colossians 3: 5-17, and James 3: 13-18. From these passages, plus psychology and common sense, the list below is offered as a starting point from which you can make your own list. The first seven bad fruits are variations of the seven deadly sins.
GOOD FRUITS BAD FRUITS
1. Humility, Open-mindedness, Tolerance, 1. Arrogance, Selfish ambition, Rebellion,
Sense of humor, Friendliness to all Prejudice, Self-centeredness
2. Love, Kindness, Warmth, Giving, 2. Envy, Dependency, Idolizing, Infatuation, Compassion Jealousy, Possessiveness
3. Peace, Forgiveness, Gentleness, 3. Resentment, Divisiveness, Vengefulness,
Patience Hate, Fear, Violence, Gossip, Slander
4. Enjoyment of work and play, 4. Greed, Materialism, Too much busyness,
Generosity, Simplicity Abusing the environment
5. Enthusiasm, Sparkle, Hope, Joy, 5. Laziness, Worry, Discouragement,
Energy, Optimism, Courage Addiction to work, TV or computer
6. Sexual integrity (Sex with Love, 6. Lust, Sexual abuse & addictions, Pornography,
Romance, Marital fidelity) Sex outside the bounds of marriage
7. Self-control, Physical fitness, 7. Gluttony, Drug and Alcohol abuse,
Moderation or Sobriety Eating Disorders, Smoking
8. Honesty, Integrity, Getting real, 8. Cheating, Lying, Denial of reality,
Open to praise & criticism Defensive to praise and criticism
The following process helps in making decisions, choosing lifestyles, and dealing with tough moral issues.
- List your options. Don’t be limited by the obvious two of do it or don’t. How else could it be done? Can it be both…and instead of either…or? Can you ask someone else for other options you might not see?
- Personalize the list of fruits on the front, to make them your list. Add, subtract, or reword as you feel led.
- Now list the fruits that would be produced for each option, in you, and everyone else affected. You may first want to make one list for what it will produce in you, and another for what it will bring to the others involved.
- Choose where the most good fruits and the least bad fruits will result. How do these options line up with biblical commandments? Remember in the long run, we reap what we sow.
- If this still leaves you log-jammed, you’d do well to pick an objective, wise, concerned friend or two, and ask them to go over this with you and give you what impressions they have. Especially when you don’t seem to have such a friend or family member, pastors and counselors can be an immense help here.