Good decisionmaking made simple

A Christian Science perspective.

“Make good choices!” Over the past few years, that phrase has entered the common vocabulary of many parents as an almost cliched way of admonishing their children, either young or grown, to make wise decisions. Unfortunately, that popular parental saying doesn’t provide any clue as to how good choices are to be made, so it’s not too surprising if the admonition is often met with a bewildered shrug. 

Whether you’re an adolescent or an adult, it sometimes can be challenging to make good decisions that propel your life upward toward freedom and fulfillment. I know I’ve found it so. Particularly upon graduating from college, I recall feeling unprepared for what seemed the many key decisions that needed to be made in establishing life in the adult world.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, regarded decisionmaking as important. In her textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she says: “Your decisions will master you, whichever direction they take” (p. 392). But throughout her writings, she makes it plain that divine guidance is available for those who are willing to turn decisions over to God by listening to Him. For instance, her much-beloved poem “Feed My Sheep” begins: “Shepherd, show me how to go...” (“Poems,” p. 14).

Certainly an extreme example of the importance of decisionmaking by mostly young individuals is the recent news regarding the 770 percent rise in use of opiates in Vermont since 2000. The governor of that idyllic New England state devoted the entirety of his recent State of the State message to that concern. The statistic is an arresting example of decisions becoming the master of the individuals affected – not in a positive way.

Though most of us will never find ourselves in that harrowing predicament, I feel that my prayerful response should include nonjudgmental compassion toward those who find themselves addicted, that harrowing situation might be a springboard for people to ask themselves, “How can I be spiritually guided to make good decisions that will guide my life in a positive direction and avoid being mastered by evil?”

Perhaps the most basic decision people learn to make is the ability to say no to something that is not good for them, such as the use of addictive drugs. Currently, school education programs attempt to solidify that ability in children, programs that emphasize the importance of “refusal skills.”

But to make good decisions consistently, the spiritually impelled intuition underlying the ability to discern between right and wrong needs to be put into practice.

In the Bible, the prophet Isaiah indicated that the coming Messiah, Christ Jesus, would exemplify the ability to “refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15). This God-given capacity to understand the difference between good and evil, often involved in wise versus unwise decisions, is a quality of spiritual sense that each individual can make practical, because we are each God’s child, reflecting divine Mind.

We live in an era in which moral decisions may sometimes seem complex or are made to appear so. When the lines of moral decisions in relationships or elsewhere seem blurred or complicated, how can we know what to do?

In her book “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” Mrs. Eddy recounts the process by which she was able to make decisions when the answer to a dilemma was not readily apparent. She says: “Two individuals, with all the goodness of generous natures, advise me. One says, Go this way; the other says, Take the opposite direction! Between the two I stand still; or, accepting the premonition of one of them, I follow his counsel, take a few steps, then halt. A true sense not unfamiliar has been awakened. I see the way now. The guardians of His presence go before me. I enter the path. It may be smooth, or it may be rugged; but it is always straight and narrow; and if it be uphill all the way, the ascent is easy and the summit can be gained” (p. 347).

So the ability to make good decisions involves the ability to listen to God and then heed the angel thoughts He gives us. I know I’ve found this counsel helpful. It can be accomplished in only an instant, as sometimes split-second decisions are required of us.

The Bible offers the following promise about the sureness of divine guidance regarding decisions: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21). Listening to and acting on that guidance will assuredly result in the ability to make good choices more readily and consistently.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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