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 Blooming Stars

Decision-making and Discernment

            Everything in life involves decisions. Decision-making is the most characteristic function of a being that is free. Decision-making flows from one’s fundamental right of freedom. The quality of one’s life depends on the kind of choices or decisions one makes. Not to decide itself is a decision. Sometimes that may be the only choice if options placed before one is equally bad. Generally if I fail to make my decisions other’s decisions or judgments will manage or control my life. I will be always held accountable for my decisions. Every decision furthers my goal in life or delays it or even detracts from it. While my good decisions can make me grow and develop further, my bad decisions or poor judgment can hurt me or even ruin me. For instance, if I decide to break a rule or commit a crime I will be responsible for the consequences of my decisions. The penalty or punishment will depend on the seriousness of the infraction or crime. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to select from two equally good choices. Still one must decide lest one meets with a fate that is similar to the one of the proverbial donkey that was given two equally good bundles of grass in every respect but placed at an equal distance from it. The proverbial donkey is reported to have died of starvation as it failed (did not decide) to go to one or the other bundle.

            Thinking before acting is of paramount importance. Impulsive decisions can land one in great trouble, regret, distress or pain. Impulsiveness relates to not thinking through before acting. A proverb like Look before you leap is very relevant here. We have heard the story of the lady impulsively killing the pet mongoose. The lady left her hut to fetch some water from a well leaving her little boy with the mongoose. When she returned she saw the mongoose in front of the doorway of the hut with some blood around its mouth. She became furious and instantly killed the mongoose thinking it hurt her child. Little did she know that in fact the mongoose saved her child. When she got into the hut she saw the child happy at the same time a deadly dead cobra killed by her pet lying in the hut.

            Discernment here means to carefully distinguish and scrutinize. Thoroughly various options available before a decision, and to clarify for oneself all the issues involved weighing all the pros and cons before arriving at a decision. After proper discernment a person might make a decision, choose between two options one of which is a lesser evil than the other, or even postpone a decision. Postponing decision-making without a good reason can be a sign of depression. I am aware that some people like myself have no difficulty making decisions related to day-to-day engagements but carry them out or meet the deadlines at the last minute. Carried away by what is happening in the here and now, one may set aside or postpone some prior commitments. But it is a question of prioritizing for persons swarmed by demands on their time. Sometimes perfectionism, also a sign of depression, can be at work. Often people have good intentions that are not carried out. Here a well-known saying such as hell is paved with good intentions is in order. It is also good to remind ourselves that one can also be one’s own worst enemy. A famous American general said: “I have found the enemy; he is within me”.

            In the hectic, modern life that we are in we are bombarded with choices/options. We choose to do what we can or what we have energy for. In all this one needs to look at coast-benefit analysis. Cost-benefit analysis, an economic term, is used to assess what one gets for what one pays/spends. More specifically, in our context, what kind of physical or emotional energy/resource one spends to achieve one’s objective. Is the energy that is spent is in proportion to the benefit that accrues? In the final analysis, persons do what they consciously or unconsciously really want to do. Persons, for instance, conveniently forget certain things. Lack of awareness can also account for it.

            Always we need to keep in mind the distinction between want and need. There are things that I want. (Would like) to do; there are things that I need (must) to do. When things are not clear or when there is uncertainty about the outcome, a prudent as well as a spiritual person is unlikely to make decisions that have serious consequences. In such situations maintaining the status quo is preferred. In sum, decisions made after thoughtful discernment paves the way for a rich, happy, and spirit-led life.


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