I had hoped that I wouldn't have to come to the place where I would need to make this decision. It was my sincerest hope that it would all work itself out and I would be able to refrain from confronting such a difficult situation. But it didn't work out that way. Our last and oldest feline was nearing the end of her days. And due to her strong will for survival, she didn't want to let go. Neither did I. She has been an integral part of our family since my husband and I were married for almost seventeen years. However, watching her struggle and not give in wasn't working for either one of us. I couldn't validate the pain that I was feeling over the nearness of her leaving by keeping her around in such a sad state. Though my emotions were tearing me apart, I resolved that they no longer played a part in the drama that was unfolding. Her well-being was foremost and though it would be a difficult choice to make, she needed me to help her. She was counting on me. That painful decision became mine to make, to let her go and give her the gift of a peaceful end.
so many choices
So you have to make a decision? We all have choices to make many times daily — from what food and drink we will consume, how we will spend our resources, how we will care for others, etc... Sometimes these decisions are for us, sometimes they are for those who are counting on us.
Some of these decisions are easy to make. They are done out of habit and provide no challenge. Other decisions that we have to make can cause a great internal struggle or leave us in tatters. How do we get beyond this internal strife and make the decisions that are challenging with confidence and without all the agony?
Rabbi Mendel discusses this decision making and the difficulty involved in Cheshbon HaNefesh. He elaborates on the fact that as we grow, we have the ability to make more decisions more readily. However, he also brings forth that even when we are equipped with this skill, we can never be certain of all the ramifications of any particular choice. This is where our personal quandry comes into play. We see that decision making isn’t always clear-cut and can cause us to be unsure of which path to take. We are put in situations many times that challenge our very ability to act. We get stuck.
But there seems to be somewhat of an antidote to what seems like a vast array of choices. Once we have come to a decision using our higher reasoning (informed by Torah, prayer, life’s experiences, etc…) as a guide, we can feel some level of certainty that we are going to make at least a better decision, if not the best one. It is then incumbent for our animal spirit to help carry out the decision. We need to act.
But as Rabbi Mendel discusses, this higher reasoning (or lack of it) can cause problems as well. If we apply too much higher reasoning, if one must ponder excessively and for too long, this can lead to missed opportunities and perhaps error as well. If we are prone to acting quickly and whimsically, then we are prone to mistakes in our decision making. This kind of decisiveness is driven purely by the animal spirit and is not concerned with various ramifications. This can not only be disastrous for the present, but also for the future. What to do?
sort it out
While there are so many paths in life, it is important to get a handle on what these are and where we need to put our attention. While the faces of decisions are many, they basically can be lumped into two categories: decisions that affect ourselves and ourselves plus others. Here are just some of the types of decisions we are confronted with daily that can fall into one or both categories:
- diet or lifestyle change
- job choice
- taking on more commitments that will further an organization or self-goals
- relationship change
- ideology shift
- medical care
When we are confronted with making a hard decision, there are common components that need to be considered and answered beforehand if we even have a chance of making a good choice:
- What is the motivation?
- How difficult will it be to implement?
- What are the concerns or possible casualties of this decision?
- What is the plan and timeframe to carry out this decision?
Sometimes in the face of these decisions, we can become paralyzed. However, even if we are not sure of the perfect decision, making a well-reasoned and even-tempered decision with the best information and intention is better than doing nothing at all. If we can provide answers for some of the bullet points above, then we find ourselves closer to being engaged in a choice, embracing it and taking action (or maybe none at all).
more than a battery
“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.” Oliver Wendell Holmes
Potential energy is a fantastic concept. But the point of having the potential energy is to use it someday. Picture a large car battery. The car battery is pretty useless to us unless it has potential and is in a car. But if charged and hooked up, it powers the car and the car can go places. Just like that battery in the car, we do ourselves and others no good if we have potential, yet do not act.
Mashiach Yeshua speaks of decisiveness in the Parable of Talents:
For the matter can be compared to a man traveling from far away, who called his servants and entrusted them with his possessions. To one he gave five kikkarim, two to another, and one to another—to each man according to his ability; then he hurried and traveled on from there.
The man who received five kikkarim went and traded with them and made five additional kikkarim. Likewise, the one who received two also gained two more. But the one who received one went and dug in the ground and buried his master’s silver.
After many days, the master of those servants came and made an accounting with them. The one who had received five kikkarim approached, and he brought five additional kikkarim. He said, “My master, you entrusted to my hand five kikkarim; hinneh, I have gained five more with them!” His master said to him, “You have done well, good and faithful servant; since you were faithful with a little, I will entrust you with much; enter your master’s joy!”
The one who received two kikkarim also approached and said, “Master, you entrusted to my hand two kikkarim; hinneh, I have earned two kikkarim with them!” His master said to him, “You have done well, good and faithful servant; with a tiny amount you were faithful, and I will entrust you with much; enter your master’s joy!”
The one who received one kikkar also approached, and he said, "My master, I know you, that you are a difficult man, reaping what you did not sow, and gathering from what you did not scatter. I was afraid, so I went and buried your kikkar in the ground. Now, here is what is yours."
His master answered and said to him,
"Evil and lazy servant! You do know that I reap what I did not sow and gather from what I did not scatter. Therefore, it was ought to have given my silver to the money changers, and as for me, when I came, I would have received what is mine with its interest. Therefore, take the kikkar from him, and give it to the man who had the ten kikkarim."
For whoever has, to him it will be given, and he will have extra, but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. --Mashiach Yeshua, Matthew 24:14-29, DHE
This concept of potential is highlighted in this parable. It is not enough to have something — it’s what you do with it that counts. Even if you are given little and you make a decision with that little bit and reap a little more, it is better than sitting on a decision and doing nothing. Not making a decision because it is difficult and wrought with challenge brings you no results. The perceived “staying safe” actually causes missed opportunities or a loss that is not yet evident. Yeshua’s words are very straightforward in this manner and challenge us to face our choices courageously and responsibly. Idleness, procrastination, fear — all of these are no excuse for staving off a decision. Running from decisions that sit before us usually reaps consequences later on that are far more unpleasant than if we hunkered down and faced what we need to do at the right time.
commit and act
We need to make a decision and stick to it.
Commit your way to Hashem, rely on Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness like a light, and your justice like the high noon. --Psalm 37:5
With our actions, we find we can multiply our talents if we put forth our share. If we stash those opportunities away and squander our ability to commit, then we earn nothing extra whatsoever. It is like a donor matching program. Put in your share, and Hashem will match it and confirm it. And when He does, there will be a brightness brought forth like the sun at high noon — zohorayim — that you and others may bask in together.
And what do we do if we find we have committed and made the wrong decision? In many cases, there are ways of making a u-turn, or repairing or starting over. There are no guarantees that we won’t make mistakes. But if we surround ourselves with Torah, good counsel in the way of friends and those who can assist in good decision making, we are on the track to making better decisions more easily, confidently and sticking to them — all without internal waffling and stress.
Gospel references taken from Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels (DHE)®, © Copyright Vine of David 2010. Used by permission.