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How Do You Make Your Decisions?

(Creative Commons License)
(Creative Commons License)

By Ed Jordan

In recent years there has been a cultural shift in how people make decisions. This shift has been from making decisions based upon their long-term outcome, to making decisions based upon the emotional climate of the moment. Formerly most people lived with a view towards building the future; now many people live just for today. Previously most people objectively thought-through potential decisions, projecting where each decision might lead.

Much of today’s decision-making has become spontaneous and is comprised of subjectively choosing what seems to produce a new or stimulating experience. This shift highlights the difference between objectivity and subjectivity: Objectivity attempts to remove personal biases from the decision, while subjectivity attempts to make one’s own preferences the focal point of the decision.

Someone might ask: What difference does this make? The way we make decisions matters because it influences the outcome of our decisions. Consequences follow our decisions. What we do today affects our tomorrows, and the tomorrows of others.

Some years ago there was a classic episode in the original Star Trek that illustrates both the difficulties and the consequences of decision-making. The episode is called “The City on the Edge of Forever.” In it, Dr. McCoy is accidently injected with a drug that brings on paranoia. Fleeing the ship, he jumps through a time portal that transports him to New York during the Great Depression. He is taken in and cared for by a lady who runs a rescue mission.

Back in current time, Kirk and his crew search for McCoy, discovering the time-space portal, a “looking glass” shaped doorway through which they can see past world history being shown as though it were on a large view-screen. They see that McCoy’s spontaneous and subjective decision to jump through the portal drastically changed the future. Kirk and Spock go through the portal to bring their friend back to the present, and repair the damage done to history.

Kirk and Spock end up in close proximity to McCoy, although they don’t immediately find hm. In the meantime, Kirk falls in love with Edith Keeler, the lady who runs the rescue mission, but who is also unwittingly the focal source of the time contamination. The bottom line plot is that if Earth’s history is to return to normal, Edith Keeler must die in an accident.  If the accident is avoided and she lives, Hitler would conquer the world, and world history would be changed.

In the story, Spock represents the objective, rationalistic, “look at the facts and make a decision based upon those facts” process. Kirk is in love, and can’t stand the thought of the woman he loves dying, thus representing the personally immersed, emotionally involved, subjective decision-making process. Spock and Kirk discuss the issue and concur that the timeline of history must not be corrupted, and they must allow the fatal accident to take place. Kirk said he was in love and didn’t think that he could prevent himself from saving Edith if given the chance.

In response, Spoke basically told Kirk, “Edith Keeler must die in that accident. Follow your heart, and save her, and all history will change. The world as we know it, will no longer exist.”   In the end, Edith Keeler is struck by a vehicle while she walks across a street, as at the side of the street Kirk holds onto McCoy to prevent him from running out to save her.

The point? Sometimes we must ignore or defer our feelings in order to make a decision that brings the best outcome for all. Our personal subjective feelings are not the only factor to be considered.

In reality, both objectivity and subjectivity are needed to make good decisions, but each needs to be used in balanced ways.  All rationalism in decision-making can lead to decisions that crush the humanity of the people involved.  On the other hand, using only emotionalism can derail decisions that, while tough to make, are the best course of action to take. Some decisions are made spontaneously and subjectively.  Some are made using a combination of rational analysis of emotional data.  And vice versa.

The larger issue is whether we make decisions without giving any thought to the predictable and possible future results that will come from those decisions, and whether God’s values and His will are reflected in them. Doing research and planning prior to making decisions prevents a lot of heartache and problems, as well as providing a probability of greater success.

It is as Proverbs 20:18 (NASB95) states: “Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise guidance.”

ed-jordan2Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. You may also read his past columns.

He can be reached at szent.edward@gmail.com.