On Making Difficult Decisions

© 2015 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

Sometimes we’re faced with having to make a difficult decision, where every option has a significant downside. How should we process those? And how do we handle the aftermath?

This weekend we had to euthanize our wonderful dog, Java. He was sixteen and in his last year he lost his sight, began having difficulty walking, and was in pain. What does that have to do with IT? As I’ve dealt with the results of the decision, and the finality of it, it made me think about decision making processes

Conundrums Abound!
In all of life– including managing technology at church or for a ministry– we find ourselves having to make difficult choices. There isn’t always an obvious good option, yet we have to choose one.

Invariably there are people around us who would like the decision to go in the direction for which they’re lobbying. Sometimes those are vendors, sometimes fellow team members, sometimes employees, and sometimes family or friends. We all want to be liked, and we all want to do the right thing. Those situations are very challenging because we really want to get them right!

And sometimes there is no turning back once the decision has been made! That makes these situations all the harder. Thus the heading: a conundrum is an intricate and difficult problem (Merriam-Webster).

Settle on a Methodology
It is important to settle on a methodology so that, when faced with intricate and difficult problems, you have a higher likelihood of getting it right. Some help that I’ve gotten over time includes the following:

  • Get to know the scriptures– beginning to end. There is great wisdom there, and Psalm 119:24 says, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.” (NIV) A good decision will never violate what The Lord has said in his word.
  • Talk with those you respect and give them an opportunity to weigh in. In Proverbs 15:22 King Solomon said, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (NIV) Don’t make difficult decisions alone. Let others ask questions and help enhance the outcome.
  • Speaking of talking with many counselors, it cannot be understated that prayer is essential. God wants to help us make wise decisions! Solomon said in Proverbs 2:6, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (NIV) So talk with God about the decision! Ask him to lead and guide you in unmistakable ways! And he will do so!
  • As time allows, talk about the options and the decision you’re feeling led to make with those who will be impacted to get a read on how they feel about it. Let them process through it just like you did, considering the pros and cons of the options. King Solomon also said, in Proverbs 29:1, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed– without remedy.” (NIV) In our context, if you find that everyone believes it is a bad decision, this will give you time to re-think your position or get better grounded in your reason for making it. It is often said that to lead effectively, you need followers; if no one is following you because they don’t like your decisions, it could destroy relationships that are important to you.
  • Throughout the process, be humble and gentle. Jesus’ half-brother said in James 4:6 & 10 said, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

No Turning Back!
Many decisions, once made, cannot be undone. Terminating an employment relationship, for example. Buying certain hardware or software solutions.

In all these, make certain you can live with the results, even though you may not know exactly what the results will be!

In deciding to relieve our dog of his pain, I believe I made the right decision. My wife agrees, thankfully, but there is the question of timing. The longer we put it off, the more pain he suffered; and putting it off would have been for our convenience; because we didn’t want to make the decision. Once it was made, though, there was no way to undo it. And because we loved him, it has been heartbreaking to live with.

That is the way it is with so many decisions we make though! We can’t simply unwind them, or turn back the clock. So it is important to have a solid sense that the decision is as correct as possible, and not rushed in to.

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