How Decisions Do and Don’t Define You

Anyone who has access to the internet is probably aware of a major decision that happened in the United States today. As the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to prevent gay marriage, people across the country either celebrated or scoffed at the announcement.

Regardless of your position, there are some critical things to remember:
  1. This is still a free country. Just because other people get to do something you may not approve of, that does not directly infringe on your freedom.
  2. Jesus always, again ALWAYS, took a stance of loving others. That should be our first priority as Christians.
  3. This decision was not taken lightly. And it does not define you.
That last point is what I want to focus on today. Making decisions is hard, whether it effects a whole country or just you. But regardless of the decisions other people make, you always have control over your ability to decide who you are and what you believe in.

You may have noticed that I did not post anything on the blog yesterday. Even though I challenged myself to post everyday for 30 days, I am not perfect. A storm of everything going wrong spun through my day yesterday, leaving me disheveled in body and mind. By the time I had the chance to try and write something, I only had an hour before I was supposed to be at a book club. So I could either eat dinner and not post, then go to book club. Or I could eat dinner and then write a post, and not go to book club. Or I could skip dinner, write a post, and go to book club. And most likely break down afterwards.

Faced with this monumental decision, heavy with serious consequences (sarcasm font please), I sat down and cried. Anyone with anxiety knows that one of the greatest sources of stress is having to make decisions. It doesn’t matter how important they are, even the smallest option can send you into a tailspin.

After blubbering on the phone to my patient fiance, I resolved I needed to eat. There was decision one. Then, when faced with the decision between writing a blog post that would probably end up cranky and whiny, or going to be social and feel comforted by wonderful friends, I decided on the second one. And I don’t feel at all guilty about choosing people over my pride.

This may seem minor to you, but the way we make decisions, and the way we live with them, is important. 

Sheena Iyengar in her TED talk “The Art of Choosing” points out the many assumptions we hold about the importance of choices, and how her research on choice, both in the U.S. and in other cultures, suggests that having endless choices isn’t always a good thing. She says, “A number of my studies have shown that when you give people 10 or more options when they’re making a choice, they make poorer decisions, whether it be health care, investment, other critical areas. Yet still, many of us believe that we should make all our own choices and seek out even more of them.”

Iyengar points out that “the American standard of choice requires that everyone treat choice as a private and self-defining act.” So when the Supreme Court makes a choice that someone may not agree with, this feels like an imposition on his or her own identity and ability to privately define such things.
“For modern Americans who are exposed to more options and more ads associated with options than anyone else in the world, choice is just as much about who they are as it is about what the product is,” Iyengar says.

Following this logic, a nationwide choice made by someone else may feel like a direct affront to who you are.

I’m here to tell you it’s not.

Whether you are deciding between writing a blog post or going to book club, supporting gay marriage or speaking out against it, these decisions are part of the free will that God gave us all. Let me repeat that, God gave us ALL free will.  God did not only give free will to the Christians and then say they could mandate everyone else’s decisions. Whether you agree with the SCOTUS decision or not, free will enables us to make our own choices, as long as they don’t directly hurt anyone else.

We need to trust that the Supreme Court took this decision seriously, that they consulted and debated with everyone’s best interest in mind. This is democracy in action, and it applies to all of us. A decision has been made, and how we live with that decision will define us and the God we represent. 

Let us be people of love rather than people of hurt. Let our decisions be driven by fellowship, rather than fear. Let others make their own decisions, and know that it doesn’t change who you are.

Iyengar finishes her TED talk with this wisdom–“No single narrative serves the needs of everyone everywhere. Moreover, Americans themselves could benefit from incorporating new perspectives into their own narrative, which has been driving their choices for so long.” The American narrative of choice is still important, and your ability to make decisions isn’t going anywhere. However, we need to remember that our narrative may be different from our neighbors, and that is ok.

Some decisions may be minor, but other decisions are a complicated bundle of pride, fear, anxiety, hope, and faith. The only way to trust in the decisions you make is to be confident in who you are. God loves you deeply, and the decisions we make don’t change God’s sovereignty or love. The decisions others make won’t change that either. 

How do you feel about the decisions other people make?
How do your decisions define you?


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