I was reading a book recently that talked about Adam and Eve’s choice in the garden. The serpent is whispering lies to them – “did God really say…?” They are filled with their own confusion – Eve saw the fruit was good for eating. But they had the ominous command from God – don’t eat!
I think Adam and Eve get a bad wrap for their poor decision. When we hear the story, we all know what the right decision is. We all know the result of their bad choice. But they don’t. They’re confused. Those first humans aren’t trying to upset the world, get kicked out of the garden, or offend God. They are just trying to make a good choice, based on the factors in front of them.
Adam and Eve never saw an example of bad choices. Think about that. Did they even realize bad choices were a truly possible thing? Did they trust their ability to choose too much? Imagine having to make a choice when you had never seen the consequences of a bad one. Like I said, I think they get a bad wrap.
Thinking about Adam and Eve got me thinking about myself and my ability to make choices. What factors go into my decision making? Why is it so hard for me to decide what to do – I can’t even make a decision about Chinese or Italian for dinner without second-guessing myself.
A choice is an act of ownership. There are options on the table and we commit to one. We internalize our choices as part of who we are. The results were disastrous for Adam and Eve (and the serpent). Our world is so afraid of truth and vulnerability, it is no wonder we struggle to make choices. We can hardly commit to a Netflix show, let alone something that truly matters. And in a world so trigger-happy with criticizing others, it is no wonder we are nervous about attaching ourselves to a political party or career path or a dating partner.
Just like Adam and Eve, we have a host of voices muddying up the waters of our decision-making. People want us to make decisions that align with their agenda. Including God. God wants us to do what he wants us to do.
And then there is our own agenda. Sometimes it is healthy and sometimes it is destructive. Sometimes we want something that aligns with our values and the vision for our lives. Sometimes we deceive ourselves and we want something easy and superficial, some shortcut that won’t work out.
So making a decision is about navigating these factors as best we can. There is no magic formula for decision making. We simply have to name and acknowledge the factors and then do our best.
We work at a college and have a lot of conversations with students about making a decision. What major to take, what job to pursue, whether or not to go home over Easter, etc.
One thing we’ve noticed is that there are two different kinds of decisions. One is between good and bad. Should I kill this person or go to the movies with friends. A clear right There. The other kind is between two good options (maybe it helps to call it a good and a better option). A vast majority of our decisions are the latter.
The students here are wrestling between good and better decisions, worried their life might be ruined if they chose a good decision. One of the things we need to do when making a decision is figure out if this is a good/bad decision or a good/better decision. Students here are fighting themselves looking for which of the options is evil. Since neither is, they don’t know what to do.
With a good/better decision, you obviously want to make the better decision. But there is less weight. This is usually a closer race, by the way, than the good/bad decisions. The better may be better by a hair. Good/better decisions are a struggle of ownership rather than morality.
With all of this in mind, we have to own our decisions. We have to boldly make the choices, as best we can. Knowing today’s choice is not the only one we will ever make. Decision making is a honed skill. We have to search our internal motivations and discern the advice of community. In the end, we have to own our choices. They belong to us. And nobody is going to make them on our behalf.