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This week has been Tough Decision Week at my house.  Our elderly dog suddenly has taken a turn for the worse.  Her organs are shutting down, and she has stopped eating and drinking.  Like many pet owners, we are faced with the decision of whether to let nature take its course and allow her to slowly fade away, or have her put to sleep at the vet’s office.  No route seems like a good one, and I have a splitting headache that won’t go away from the stress of trying to figure out what is best for her.

Most of life isn’t like this week.  Most of the time, we have easy decisions to make each day: what to make for dinner, whether to go see the latest film at the theater or wait until it comes out on DVD, etc.  They are simple, inconsequential decisions.

But sometimes in life, we have to make decisions that matter.  These decisions not only impact our lives, but the lives of others.  Like whether to end a relationship that isn’t working… Whether to quit a comfortable job for one that is higher paying…  Whether to tell our child, “No” and let them figure out how to get themselves out of a predicament…  How to best care for a loved one who is dying…  There are no straightforward answers to the big decisions that we have to make in life.

However, there are certain things that we can do to reach the best solution for all.  To that end, the following are tools to help you approach making life’s toughest decisions.

Listen to Your Body: The most important thing that we can do when faced with a tough decision is to seek direction from God.  Very often God communicates with us through our bodies.  Stomachaches and headaches are ways that He lets me know that things aren’t right.  Now my physical ailments aren’t giving me a solution to my problem.  However, they certainly let me know that whatever is going on isn’t in keeping with God’s will.  And very often, once I make the “right” decision, that ache goes away.

Make Your Decision from a Place of Compassion:  Approaching decisions with compassion for everyone involved is hard.  Typically, when faced with big decisions, we are under stress.  Not only are we frustrated with the situation, but often we are frustrated with everyone involved, and sometimes even with the innocent individuals who are just trying to help.  But we never can make good decisions from a place of anger or irritation.  That is why it helps to take a break from the action.  Sometimes we need to stop trying to figure out a solution, pause for a couple of hours, and then approach the situation with a calm frame of mind.  When we are calm, we can think more compassionately about the situation and about everyone involved.

Accept that There Will Be No “Perfect” Answer: When we make big decisions, very often there is no perfect answer.  There is no good answer for our dear dog.  Her life is coming to an end, and regardless of what we do, we cannot change that fact.  So when you make big decisions, don’t beat yourself up.  Some situations will never be resolved ideally for everyone, and sometimes we just have to make the best decision possible under the circumstances.

Pleasing Others Can’t Be A Factor:  There is nothing wrong with trying to please others.  I try to do nice things for my husband and daughter all the time because I love to see them happy.  But when we are making tough decisions, we cannot factor in our desire to please others.  We can’t stay in bad relationships for the benefit of family members or friends.  We can’t coddle our children for the momentary happiness it may give them, if coddling will prevent them from becoming capable adults.  Not all good decisions are popular.  Sometimes you have to be willing to make the right decision, even when it may result in your having a low approval rating.

Pray:  When we pray, we are better able to separate our important concerns from our selfish ones.  Why?  Because when we talk to God, we feel silly if we come to the conversation in an immature manner.  We know what God expects from us – compassion, maturity and generosity – and coming before God with anything less makes us feel ridiculous.  When we pray, we separate the wheat from the chaff in our thinking.  And by praying, we are able to better approach our decisions by focusing on what is important to God instead of our own selfish needs.

When we make tough decisions, our character and maturity are tested.  We learn who we really are and whether we have the courage to do what is right.  By being aware of God’s direction, and by practicing compassion and kindness when we make such decisions, hopefully we can better rise to that challenge.

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