My Life with God

Decision Shadows

Do decisions have shadows?

If I choose to forgive someone, is the choice to not hold a grudge or seek revenge a shadow or natural progression of my decision to forgive?

I don’t think it’s that simple, but imagining the shadows of our decisions can help us consider the ramifications of them. Years ago, I started to listen to the way I expressed decisions. I heard myself say, “I don’t want to go to the store.” Yet I was on my way to the store. I was making a decision to go to the store while minimizing the choice I had. The truth was I wanted to go to the store more than I wanted the consequences of not going to the store. I wanted to shop, because I wanted to feed my family. I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to provide. I was choosing to go to the store, and I began phrasing it to reflect my actions, “I’m going to the store, so we can have food we need and are prepared for the next couple weeks.”

If we recognize the shadows of our decisions, we consider what options we’re leaving on the table and what we’re limiting. When we say yes to something, we take responsibility for what we’re saying no to.

If I choose not to take responsibility for something, I need to realize the shadow of that decision may include the possibility of damaged relationships and integrity, distortions of truth, and a commitment to charades.

If I choose to ignore someone’s needs, I need to realize the shadow of that decision may include the possibility of growing selfishness, another opportunity to serve, a missed connection.

The shadows of our decisions are not always the underbelly. They aren’t completely positive or negative. And we can’t foresee every shadow of our decisions. I know people who have walked away from relationships who have claimed to thoroughly consider the consequences and deemed walking away was worth it, then later claimed “I didn’t realize…” In some cases, we truly can’t see the forest through the trees. We’re too disoriented to understand the intricate ramifications of what we’re doing. In too many cases, we simply don’t take the time to consider the ramifications or we push many aside and rationalize “that won’t happen in this situation.”

Some people find it easy to reach analysis paralysis, considering something to such degree that they cannot make a decisions with all the competing alternatives and possibilities. That approach is not what I’m suggesting. Remember, most decisions we face are not completely positive or negative. What we choose will mean we miss out on some of the things we want, but we acknowledge we want other things more. It’s as if we assign a value to not only the objects of our decisions but also the expression of our character. Many times, what we are striving for or leaning into isn’t what drives us as much as the approach we’re taking and the impact our attitudes and actions will have on others. Our compassion for others and commitment to authenticity is exposed by our decisions—what we say and do (and don’t say and don’t do) across a variety of situations and relationships.

The end of the year is a popular time to reflect and determine what we want to change in our lives. Becoming more intentional in making wise decisions, including considering the shadows of our options, is important to taking healthy steps forward. Intentionality grows my faith. Intentionality grows my relationships. Intentionality grows me. It’s challenging, but acknowledging what’s in the shadows of decisions strengthens the choices we make.

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