What is a good decision?

Thoughts about the power of conscience
Nyomtatóbarát változatNyomtatóbarát változat

1. In how many ways can we make a wrong decision? One of the worst decisions is non-decision. One type of non-decision is to follow the crowd, when the majority (without considering the situation) copies the behavior of the „neighbor”, the „influencer X” – uncritically. A hasty decision almost always focuses on the short term objectives. Following the long term objectives is much more important than that. (For further details, please read my essay here.)

 

2. What can help us make a good decision? For making a good decision it is important to estimate whether I am in an appropriate state of mind. A very useful example is that of the rabbit. The rabbit EITHER listens OR runs. It does NOT do both at the same time. A good decision needs time. I have good news: time is subjective. If we can create silence in ourselves, our inner time expands and a moment becomes "a thousand years". For making a good decision it is important to control our emotions, since only "indifference" which is free of unsettled inclinations may lead us to good decisions. The most important compass of a good decision is our conscience, which is the reflection of Totality living in ourselves. (For further details, please read my essay here.)

 

3. Good decisions made at the right time and at the right place. We rarely recognize that we are in a life-changing situation. So it is worth paying attention to the surprising situations VERY carefully. In these cases we have to stop and think. For the most important decisions of our lives we have to leave our own viewpoints and have to rise high (Saint Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises, 184 to 187). If we have accepted Totality with a humble heart, we will see ourselves as God sees us. If we succeed to leave all the earthly affections behind that we ourselves have been in our everyday lives, then we can feel God’s intentions and will with us. In such cases those miraculously new paths that cannot be imagined by a human mind are to be revealed in our lives that link us together with Totality, bring us our real freedom and lead us to good decisions made at the right time and at the right place. (For further details, please read my essay here.)

 


 

Introduction. As I wrote in my first essay in September, I will go along a whole course of a spiritual retreat with my essays until the next summer. With the Christmas post we have arrived at the end of the first week of the four weeks’ long retreat: Christ may have been born within us, we may have been given places in the House of God and we may have realized that we were the Children of God. My four essays dealing with the second week of the retreat confront us with our sins. My New Year’s essay was about our community sins. My next essay described our own personal sins. In my present essay I write about the power of conscience and our choices. The essay published on the 8th February is on free will and the benefits of good ties. I wish all my Readers times full of contemplating self-analysis and change!

 

1. In how many ways can we make a wrong decision?

 

 

One of the worst decisions is perplexed confusion or non-decision. In such case we take a step to the right, then we lose confidence, and take a step to the left in order to avoid the trouble of stepping to the right previously. If we look inside ourselves honestly, we quite often feel ourselves such perplexed and confused. It often happens that we suffer years or decades in a distressing situation from which we think there is no way out. We are tossed between two, contradicting decisions that cannot be undertaken, and we do not realize that there is a third one besides them. (It is worth reading the "Strategy of the Dolphin", which describes the creative revealing of the new playground, the new dimension.) One type of non-decision is to follow the crowd, when the majority (without considering the situation) copies the behavior of the „neighbor”, the „influencer X” – uncritically. A hasty decision almost always focuses on the short term objectives. Following the long term objectives is much more important than that. It is especially true when we delude ourselves with the fake illusion that the situation we have got into is not a new one and we "know" the answer for that. In such case of the "Thinking, fast and slow" process described by Daniel Kahneman fast thinking wins over, although in a completely new situation prudent and slow thinking with various judgements would be correct.

 


 

2. What can help us make a good decision?

 

"I should not order or bring the end to the means,
but the means to the end."

(Saint Ignatius, Introduction to Choice, Spiritual Exercises 169)

 

For making a good decision it is important to estimate whether I am in an appropriate state of mind. Saint Ignatius defines three suitable occasions for making a good decision (Spiritual Exercises 175 to 177). The first one is when God shows us an unequivocal path. You can read more about this in the third part of this essay. The second one is when we have enough light and knowledge for making the decision. The third suitable time is a calm time when the soul can use its natural capabilities freely. The characteristics of the state of mind, which is inappropriate for making a decision can be put together from the book "Discernment of Spirits" by Giovanni Battista Scaramelli. We have to guard against making a decision when we feel lack of love, darkness, pride, arrogance, vanity, indiscretion, tendency to exaggeration, restlessness, confusion, melancholy, distrust, extreme hard will, intolerance, aroused passions, duplicity, hypocrisy, pretense, or extreme affections in ourselves. These are all very bad advisors.

 

"With our full attention
we have to get immersed in what we do
in that very moment.
If we walk, we should walk.
If we pray, we should pray.
If we look at something, we should look at it.
If we eat, we should eat.
This is the secret of full, intensive and rich life."

(quotation of Carthusian monks)

 

A very useful example is that of the rabbit (which is known as PDCA-cycle, or OODA-loop in leadership studies). The rabbit EITHER listens OR runs. It does NEVER do both at the same time. First it thinks over where it has to run. Then it gets off and runs. It does not run forever but only for a while. Then it sits down again and listens. It thinks over whether it has run to the proper place and where to run next. In everyday life we quite often hesitate instead of run (as I wrote it in the first part of my essay), or we run, run and run with no reason – until our graves. Instead we should think about the words of Apostle Paul: "It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy." (Romans 9:16).

 

The first part of my essay has listed a number of examples of hasty decisions not considering long term objectives. A good decision needs time. "But there is no time in most of the cases!" – the Reader may say correctly. I have good news: time is subjective. If we can create silence in ourselves, our inner time expands and a moment becomes "a thousand years". An article published in the journal Science in 2017 showed that in mice the breathing control center and the higher-order brain function center are tightly connected. It means that this saying "has been proved scientifically": take a deep breath before making important decisions!

 

For making a good decision it is important to control our emotions. Emotions weight our lives’ events and experiences very accurately, so they may be the sources of wisdom if we let them work properly. BUT! Our extremely painful or extremely joyful memories are perfect decision traps. They either cause stampede or affection by all means. Only "indifference" which is free of unsettled inclinations may lead us to good decisions. This may imply the "golden mean", which is not the cheap compromise of "a little from this and a little from that" but a restraint from the extremes. The most important compass of a good decision is our conscience. For me conscience is the reflection of Totality living in ourselves. The compass of conscience leads us to the third part of my essay.

 


 

3. Good decisions made at the right time and at the right place

 

We have to make a lot of different decisions during our lives. Most often we have to decide such small issues, whether to have a broccoli or a salami sandwich. However, sometimes we have to make such decisions that will determine the rest of our lives. We rarely recognize that we are in a life-changing situation. (Dear Reader, have you ever been thinking of how many times Jesus could pass you in the street but you did not notice Him because you did not feel like to, or because you did not dare to talk to a stranger or a pauper?) So it is worth paying attention to the surprising situations VERY carefully. With surprises (either pleasant or tragic they might be), most of the times God would like to teach us. In these cases we have to stop and think. For the most important decisions of our lives we need perspective. To evaluate our lives’ most significant situations we have to leave our own viewpoints and have to rise high (Saint Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises, 184 to 187). Where to fly? Where to go? Towards love and light. These are the best compasses. If we have accepted Totality with a humble heart, we will see ourselves as God sees us. We can see our past and all the lessons that we have not recognized in our past yet. We can see our present and all that beloved fallibility that are we ourselves in it. And we will see with God’s eyes (even if not precisely but obscurely in the mirror) the Path in front of us that leads us closer to God. If we succeed (even only for the moment of making a decision) to leave all the earthly affections behind that we ourselves have been in our everyday lives, then we can feel God’s intentions and will with us. In such cases those miraculously new paths that cannot be imagined by a human mind are to be revealed in our lives that link us together with Totality, bring us our real freedom and lead us to good decisions made at the right time and at the right place.

 

I wish times full of self-analysis and change for Everybody!

 


 

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