Comments Off on Decidophobia

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Throughout the month of August, we’re looking at Ecclesiastes, that strange and seemingly “modern” Old Testament book that depicts what happens when humanity searches for ultimate meaning apart from God. 
“Excellent choice!”
“Oh, that’s my favorite dish here.”
Have you ever noticed that restaurant servers seem to go out of their way to affirm their customers’ menu selections?
That’s not an accident. 
A number of restaurants equip their servers with specific words and phrases to help people feel affirmed when ordering.  That’s because a great many of us feel intimidated when making decisions.  Even when choosing between pasta and fish.
Princeton philosopher Walter Kaufmann calls it decidophobia.  We’re freaked out by the possibility of making a mistake, missing an opportunity, or looking foolish in front of others.
A sociologist named Sheena Iyengar has run the numbers.  Most of us make about 70 conscious decisions every day.  That adds up to 25,550 decisions per year.  If you live 70 years, you’re responsible for making 1,788, 500 decisions.
You’d better not blow it.
As the old saying goes, “Life is the sum of all your choices.”  
We make lots and lots of decisions.  But it’s just as true that our decisions make us.
So what goes into the making of a great life?  Should I pursue an amazing life partner, a jaw-dropping paycheck, grateful and happy children (that one may be a bit beyond our control), an HGTV-worthy vacation home, or a resume that impresses everyone at my high school reunion?
The ancient Hebrews would say: “Don’t waste your time.”  Life is all about wisdom. 
Wisdom, according to the Bible’s authors, is the art of making great decisions.  That’s because making great decisions is the essence of making a great life.  “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do.  And whatever else you do, develop good judgment” (Proverbs 4:7). 
As Qoholeth (the Teacher) – the author of Ecclesiastes – begins to bring his meditation to a close, he appeals to those who are young. 
Almost all Hebrew wisdom literature, in fact, is directed to those who are just stepping into the prime years of their lives.  But as we shall see a few days from now, he also has something to say to those of us who are already past the midpoint of life.  He writes:
“You who are young, make the most of your youth.  Relish your youthful vigor.  Follow the impulses of your heart.  If something looks good to you, pursue it.  But know also that not just anything goes.  You have to answer to God for every last bit of it” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
Here we encounter the familiar formula of this book:  The “good life” is hedonism with boundaries – the pursuit and enjoyment of pleasure, but always with discernment. 
But where do we get discernment?  What if you’re facing a crucial decision, one that has far greater ramifications than what you might have for dinner?
Think of at least one person whose wisdom and judgment you esteem.  Approach that person, share what you’re struggling with, and ask them to speak into your life – openly, honestly, and directly. 
Author and pastor John Ortberg has it just right: “Almost all train-wreck decisions people make (and we all make them) could be prevented just by asking one wise person to speak seriously into our lives and then listening.”
Life is the sum of our choices.  Don’t be paralyzed by decidophobia.  Be wise.
And nine times out of ten, it’s probably best to go with the fish.