By Erich Wallace
For my first post as a Superior Disciple contributor, I’m going to write on something that I’m really bad at. Well… getting better at, but for sure still growing in. As you may have guessed, it’s about… bum bum BUMMM… how to pray while sleeping! JK! It’s about how to make decisions. This post will include some different logical and spiritual suggestions on how to make those tough choices that we face in life. Without further ado, here are 5 practical tips on how to make decisions.
- Know Your Life’s Purpose (hopefully to become the best-version-of-yourself) – I just read an article last week from Dynamic Catholic’s June newsletter about making great decisions, and this is what the author, Jack Beers, put as his first strategy for making great decisions. As humans, we were created to know, to love, and to serve God, and God wants us each to become the “best-version-of-ourselves.” This will look different for each person, but if you have the platform of: “Will this help me to become the best version of myself or not?” when making decisions, you have a great starting point! For some decisions, this is an easy answer. “Will going out and getting hammered help me to become the best-version-of-myself? No? Okay!” That’s simple enough, right? Yes… It makes it much clearer on what things to avoid, but it’s when we get to the questions of choosing between two good things (rather than a good and a bad thing) that knowing a little more about good decision-making comes into play. That brings up the second point:
- Make a set time for prayer (in silence) every day – People, I don’t know if you know this, but our world is LOUD and is full of DISTRACTIONS! We are a generation which is constantly on the go; which is constantly entertaining itself with social media, television, Youtube, etc… Myself included! We struggle to sit down in silence and direct our attention to God. If we want to be great decision-makers, this is something we need to do daily. Yes, I said it. Every. Day. WHAT?! Crazy, I know. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t get a solid time of silent prayer in every day. Some days I wake up late. Some days I’d rather distract myself with other things than have to face God. And some days I just don’t make the time. Sitting with the Lord in silent meditation or Scripture/spiritual reading is a vital way to keep our minds focused on the right things and to allow the Lord to work in our hearts and minds.
- Learn to “discern the spirits” – What did this dude just say?? He just went all funky witchcraft cucaracha on me! No, this is for real. 1 Corinthians 12:10 lists the discernment of spirits as a spiritual gift. It’s also something we can all learn to do in our daily prayer. St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish saint from the 16th century, was big on this and developed some great exercises to help discern the spirits in our lives. Basically, it goes like this. There are three different sources that put thoughts into our heads: God, ourselves, and the Evil One. Who is the best to listen to out of those three options? The correct answer is… God! How do we know which thoughts that come across our minds are from God and which aren’t?? This is called discernment of spirits, and there are some helpful hints on how to do it. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” When praying, look for those thoughts that bring these things to your heart, especially the first three of love, joy, and peace. Be careful though, the joy the Bible is talking about isn’t just a fleeting happiness like the thought of eating a delicious Chili Chili Cheeseburger from Red Robin. That is a fleeting joy that will pass quickly (although I do love Red Robin). This spiritual joy is a lasting joy that remains even if it isn’t satisfying our physical senses. I’ll give you one example from my life to help explain this before we wrap this thing up:About a month ago, I was offered a job as a youth minister in a really sweet place with really great people and with a solid foundation for youth ministry that had already been started. When offered the job, I was elated, but they gave me about ten days to pray about if it was for me. I was excited, giddy about it even, and was 95% sure I would take the job, but I didn’t want to make a rash decision because I have my hands involved in a lot of things in Merrill, where I am now. Despite all of the happiness and attraction I had to the job, which was obviously a good thing, as I kept praying throughout my decision period I had a great “movement in my heart” of love for the place I already am. Not just an “Ooohhh… I’ll miss the people around me,” type of love. But an “I want to lay my life down for these people and this place kind of love,” more so than ever. My natural inclinations at first led me to want to take this new and exciting job in another city, but I began to just be filled with this great love for the people and the city of Merrill, and the idea of moving started to become a little bit unsatisfying to me. If I go back to the fruit of the Spirit, love is the first one, and God is love according to 1 John 4:8. So, it led me to trust and to have confidence that Merrill is where I should stay, and that is what I chose. Pay attention to those thoughts and movements of your heart.
- Talk to people you respect – Last on this list is to talk to someone you respect, or a few people. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many good advisers they succeed.” A fresh perspective, especially from someone who’s been around the block a few times, can make a HUGE difference in making good choices. Find a couple of solid people you can go to, and see if they have some wisdom to impart to you from their prayer, study, and life experience.
That’s all I got for ya now! I hope this helps you in making great decisions in your life. This is not an all-inclusive list, but I will leave a couple more resources at the bottom if you want to dig further. I touched on these sources in writing this article as well and want to give them credit!
Thanks, and God bless!
“Discernment: Making Inspired Choices” by Joe Paprocki, D.Min. on Loyola Press
“3 Strategies for Making Great Decisions” by Jack Beers on Dynamic Catholic
The Discernment of Spirits: A Reader’s Guide by Timothy M. Gallagher, O.M.V.