This is a continuation of a discussion of Andy Stanely's "Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets." To go to the first part of this discussion, click here.
The Conscience Question: Is There a Tension That Deserves My Attention?
Decision #3: I will explore rather than ignore my conscience.
Sometimes, or more times than we’d like to admit, a decision creates uncomfortable tension, or what experts call “a red-flag moment.” For a myriad of potential reasons, decisions such as these bother us, cause us to hesitate, and often, we have no idea why.
During decisions that give us uncomfortable pauses or feelings of hesitation, we owe it to ourselves to not ignore or brush off the uneasiness.
To paraphrase an example that Stanley presents to the reader: emotions play an essential role in decision-making. They (emotions) serve a purpose in informing us what we should do. A gut instinct recognizes a “red flag.” it is this recognition that alerts us to pay attention and tells our emotions to act accordingly.
In short, we should explore our conscience rather than ignore our “gut.” Even if we can’t pinpoint the direct cause of a “red flag,” we should further explore this tension, even if doing so causes us temporary discomfort. To quote Pastor Stanely, “That’s a decision you will never regret.”
The Maturity Question: What Is the Wise Thing to Do?
Decision #4: I will take the past, present, and future into consideration
This question, chapter, and eventual conclusion are all about making the wisest choice by first asking yourself: “what is the wise thing to do?”
The wisest choices are seldomly decided by settling for the “acceptable, legal, tolerable, or non-prosecutable choices,” as these are descriptions of choices that will lead to “feelings dangerously close those resembling regret.”
By actually asking, “what is the wise thing to do?” is a simple yet powerful tool that not only could have prevented our biggest regrets in life but one that will assuredly help us avoid them in the future. We (again) owe it to ourselves to answer this question based on our wisdom, experiences, and current circumstances, rather than submitting ourselves to hide behind broadly general and culturally appropriate norms.
So, ask it [what’s the wise thing do, according to your wisdom]. Ask it even if you don’t plan to act on it. You owe it to yourself to know. You owe it to the people depending on you as well. So, one last time: In light of your experience, your current circumstances, and your future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do? - Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets, chapter five; pg. 143
The Relationship Question: What Does Love Require of Me?
Decision #5: I will decide with the interests of others in mind.
The question of “What Does Love Require of Me?” is not an easily answered one. It requires us to make our decisions by thinking of others before taking action. This very notion, while seemingly simple, is a constantly changing one and is continuously restructured and interpreted based on our limited knowledge, insight, and experience.
As Stanley explains, we are constantly learning, growing, and changing as a person. And so too are our decisions when thinking of others. He gives readers an aptly powerful example of Apostle Paul’s own growth and personal change.
Based on Paul’s early writings, the most prolific scriptural author in history was far removed from his eventual ability to write over half of the New Testament:
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” - Apostle Paul, Corinthians 13:12
If the great Apostle was still far removed from the man he would eventually become when still writing the book of Corinthians, imagine how much more normal folks like us have to learn and grow from. We believe what we believe based on our experiences which are limited by what we know. This wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the fact we are always learning and, therefore, constantly changing. Thus, our knowledgable responses are by definition limited in and of themselves.
That said, there is a crucial tool at our disposal that always has and will always transcend our limited knowledge and beliefs: Love.
Thankfully, “love fills in the gaps; it reduces the friction created by our limited knowledge, and judgment-inhibiting experiences.”
Even as a prolific pastor literally writing the book on the subject, Andy Stanely admits there are things he’ll “just never understand.” Even so, he poignantly underscores the message of this chapter by concluding that his ignorance can never impede his capacity to put others first if his decisions come from a place of love.
When in doubt and not sure what to believe, ask yourself, “what does love require of me?” While your views, who you are as a person, and your maturity level are constantly changing, you will more often than not know what love instructs you to do -- you just have to ask genuinely.
Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets Conclusion
This book, in my opinion, is a refreshingly unique and dare-I-say philosophical take on how to use the wisdom of Scripture and apply it to living.
In Better Decisions, Pastor Stanely takes the complexities of what it means to live a life worth lived and worth remembering and provides the reader with manageably profound answers to life’s most important questions.
At first glance, one would be forgiven to gleam the chapter’s eponymous questions and feel as if they have a grasp of the seemingly simple five questions and their subtex-ed, equally unassuming answers without having to read the lessons that follow.
However, upon further investigation, they should be able to recognize the incredibly deep-seated philosophical, meaning-of-life, layered implications to questions that the book’s chapters implore its readers to ask themselves -- in a vulnerably genuine if not audible way.
The near-metaphysical inquiring prose makes the book, which is undoubtedly theologically Christian, wisely applicable to any reader of any faith to follow. These questions with answers given through anecdotal and biblical stories could just as well be asked by a Rabhi, a Buddhist monk, a Jesuit priest, or an ancient Greek Philosopher from the Hellenistic ages of old, albeit with their own religious teachings as their guide.
The point is, this book is for anyone looking for a theologically profound read that gives old-as-time-itself answers on how to live a meaningful life. It’s also an excellent read for anyone who enjoys their theologic philosophy through the lens of a modernized and endlessly entertaining lens.
But most importantly…
It is an undeniably penetrating read that asks its readers to not only live a life worth living but a life worthy of a legacy that lives on for others to follow long after they’re gone -- Christian, Buddhist, agnostic philosophy major, or otherwise.