Article by Janette Warwick.
There are many times during the course of a day when we have to stand at the crossroads and make a decision about something. Put simply, we have to decide whether we will say yes or no to the choices put before us.
What are some of these choices? On the home front, perhaps your spouse has asked you to do a particular task. Will you do it? Will you do it lovingly or grudgingly? Will you do it now or in your own time? A single request may seem like such a little thing but in the broader context of whether we will have life and have it in abundance, the choice we make in response to the request may not be such a small thing. For example, are there little choices creating tension and conflict in your relationship that are quietly building up over time? Moreover, is your decision-making style flowing over into the workplace and affecting your ability to succeed?
What about some of the choices we make at work? A colleague makes a rash comment, steals a good idea, fails to complete a task in a timely manner or does a substandard job. Then we have to decide whether we will we react, or choose how we respond. Do we deliver a polite response, but in our hearts a sliver of resentment quietly takes root? Do we rebuff the colleague for their poor attitude or performance, and essentially attempt to control their behaviour rather than our own actions?
Alternatively, do we stop and think about where the other person might be, what’s happened during the course of their day or their week and instead think about what they need? In other words, do we stop to think and respond with compassion and understanding rather than with a critical and judgemental attitude? In a nutshell, do we respond with a heart of love or anger?
The trouble is, as Christians, we want to respond with a heart of love but we haven’t yet learned how. It really is as simple as that. We just haven’t learned how to make the right choices and respond rather than react.
If I were to sum up the Bible I would say that our overarching aim as Christians is to learn how to make the right choices. In Genesis we see that a single decision caused the fall. Then in 2 Chronicles, King Solomon asked for the ability to make wise decisions: “give me a discerning heart to know right from wrong”. Again the same theme emerges in the New Testament where we are repeatedly encouraged to choose life.
To improve our ability to make decisions at work and home it’s essential that we learn how to develop a “discerning heart”. Here are some pointers.
- Be aware that Biblically based decision-making involves using both the heart (emotional skills) and discernment (thinking skills) to identify the right choices
- Develop the ability to sense or feel the difference between when a decision feels right and when a decision feels wrong
- Learn how to use your thinking skills and evaluate information thoroughly to make choices that feel right
- Be honest about your decision-making strengths and weaknesses. To learn, you first need to recognize and acknowledge that you have a need to learn
- Get into the habit of testing your decisions against Scripture. I consistently find that when a decision doesn’t feel right, some element of the choice is not in keeping with Scripture
- Learn how to use Scripture correctly to help you grow in your decision-making skills. The Bible is an incredibly practical book for every area of life but it’s vital that we learn how to use the Bible correctly as it can initially appear to be a difficult and even confronting text.
The thing that constantly amazes me about God is that whenever we take a small step in the right direction, such as making a commitment to developing a discerning heart, He is standing there ready to respond with an abundance of blessings. Take for example God’s response to King Solomon. He was pleased with Solomon’s request for wisdom and in response he blessed him not only with wisdom but also with riches and honour. For example, King Solomon’s reign was marked by 40 years of peace. I don’t know about you but most people I know prefer the prospect of peace rather than frustration, conflict and grief. The same generous God is available to us today. The question before you now is, what is your next step in developing a discerning heart?
Dr Janette Warwick is a sought after author, speaker and trainer in problem solving and decision-making skills. She specialises in teaching people how to solve everyday problems and make decisions from a Christian viewpoint, to equip people with the core life skills that will enable them to genuinely resolve the stresses and tensions of life.
This article was first published in the September 2011 glossy edition of RISE magazine. See back issues here.