Every day we are faced with literally hundreds of things to make up our minds about. Some are simple: "should I buy the store brand or upgrade to a name brand item?" Some are more challenging: "Am I going to accept the status quo or break the law to honor my deeply held beliefs?"
How do we make up our minds?
For a long time, I used the words choices and decisions interchangeably until I began to see that they differ in some very important ways. A decision is generally based on a calculus of pros and cons. If the calculus seems beneficial we take the action. If not, we pass. A choice is based on something deeper, grounded in values, ethics, and beliefs.
You don't march across a bridge in Selma and get beaten half to death by the Alabama State Police because of a decision. The pros definitely do not add up. No, that's a stand you take based on something you believe in.
Recently, I was led to read Tolstoy's short story The Three Questions.
A king ponders these questions:
Without being a spoiler (read the story link above) I'll just say that the king discovers the answers to these questions within his own experience rather than outside himself.
As our cultural fabric seems to unravel before our eyes, it is more important than ever to consider our actions based on our values and not on what seems like a best guess of pros and cons, what is expedient or the societal norms of the day.
Following societal norms is what led many good Germans to follow the program of the National Socialist Party. It also led we Americans down a path of racism we still have not recovered from after 300+ years.
Tolstoy offers a simple prescription for making choices -- DO GOOD. It may not always be the easy path. In fact, doing good will likely take more effort and consideration, but do it anyway because DOING GOOD has a multiplicative effect. It brings about a world that actually works.
Some of the queries I'm considering today are:
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