The Leader: 2.4 Decide
Leadership is at the core of biblical manhood. And what is the essence of leadership? Making decisions.
In its chapter on “The Essence of Leadership,” American Generalship quotes Gen. Dwight Eisenhower: “Leadership is, of course, being exerted all the time in the capacity of boosting morale, confidence and all that—but leadership is most noticeable when tough decisions finally have to be made.”
Christian men must become godly decision-makers. Whether you realize it or not, every day of your life teems with decision points. This means that wherever you are in life, you can develop daily in your skill as a good and wise decider. Becoming a better decision-maker increases your capacity as a leader and as a man.
Here are three steps you can take to grow in this capacity.
1. Recognize that YOU need to decide.
God’s Word gives strong guidance on making decisions. James 1:8 supplies a key insight into this discipline: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
How common in society is the “double-minded man”! Sadly, this infirm masculinity can easily afflict us as well. The indecisive man is unstable, and he robs his wife, children, friends and co-workers who rely on him of the leadership God wants to provide them through him.
James is not talking about a hypocrite, but a waverer. The double-minded man is two-spirited. He vacillates in his opinions. He dithers in his purposes. He goes back, then forth, then back again. His interests are divided. He is uncertain. He is fickle. He doubts.
The double-minded man tries to wriggle out of even making decisions. But in doing so, he is trying to escape the inescapable. God made us to decide! The power of free choice is an extraordinary power—and an incredible responsibility—that God gives to human beings (e.g. Deuteronomy 30:19). And deciding is a particularly prominent aspect of the role God assigned to men. Christian men must learn to exercise it wisely and well.
Some few of us are too eager to make decisions that are not ours to make, but it is far more common for us to try to sidestep a decision. When we do that, we squander the opportunity to think using the Bible, to counsel, to take action in faith, and to grow closer to God.
Making social plans, choosing a wife, disciplining and guiding children, building a product, performing a service, completing errands—so many situations, big and small, call for a decisive man! You will probably encounter more than one such situation before you go to bed tonight. And in those moments, you need to realize that the decision is yours.
Does it seem like nothing is really happening in your life? Or that your family’s morale and spiritual quality is slowly deteriorating? It may be because your family lacks a decisive leader! But do not despair: You are in the perfect position to become a better and better decision-maker, one opportunity at a time. It starts with you realizing that you are the decision-maker.
“Your poorest leaders are those who are indecisive,” said Gen. David C. Jones. “Sometimes a bad decision is better than no decision.”
Theodore Roosevelt said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
We usually think of decision-making in terms of big, obvious decisions: Should we move? Which car should we buy? Should we homeschool? But realize that the opportunity—the necessity, really—for decision-making comes up dozens of times each day.
Take the all-too-familiar example of the single man asking for a date. She says yes. He says, What do you want to do? She says, I don’t know, what do you want to do? He says, Whatever you want to do is fine.
Make a decision! It will work out! She will be far more comfortable, happy and secure with the man who says, I would like to take you to the new taco place and the park. Would you like to be my date?
Perhaps your wife calls you to ask how to prepare for company, or how to guide a child. You could go around and around trying to find out her preference and then put your stamp of approval on it. You could put it off. You could tell her to decide. Or—you could focus your attention on what she is saying, consider the facts, try to ascertain God’s will, step out in faith, and decide.
Stop the endless poll-taking, the endless soliciting of others’ opinions—the endless decision-avoiding. What is needed most of all is not accommodation but direction.
Man of Steel and Velvet says, “As far as the wife is concerned, she is usually less concerned as to the outcome of a decision than she is in the confident attitude of her leader.”
Instead of endlessly delaying decisions and deferring decisions, if you begin making decisions, God will have the opportunity to guide you and bless you and your family—because you will be fulfilling your role.
2. Seize the opportunity to decide.
Perhaps you recognize the need to be more decisive, but the task seems daunting. Here is an encouraging truth articulated in Man of Steel and Velvet: “This trait can be cultivated. One must force himself to draw conclusions quickly and firmly. But before doing so, he should make a careful study of the facts” (emphasis added throughout).
You learn good decision-making by making decisions. Overcome your fears. Perhaps a decision arises and you shy away from it because you fear making a wrong choice. The next time that happens, square up to that decision, force yourself to draw a firm conclusion, and make the call.
Sometimes you will need time to gather more facts for your conclusion. But don’t fall into the trap of delaying your conclusion simply to avoid making the decision altogether.
If you are doing your best to submit to God in making a decision—and making it based on His will—even wrong decisions will be steps forward in building godly, masculine character.
God gives you small decisions to start with, especially when you are younger. He gives you small decisions every day. These are opportunities for you to practice making decisions. Then when it’s game time and a big decision comes along, you will have plenty of practice and training under your belt.
With each decision you make, God is preparing you for greater decisions down the road.
Face problems and decisions squarely. Don’t sit on the fence. Don’t go back and forth. Don’t wait for decisions to make themselves. Don’t wait for problems to take care of themselves. Failure to decide IS a decision—the wrong one. If you’re going to fear wrong decisions, fear failing to decide!
Instead, seize the opportunity God is giving you.
3. Grow in your ability to decide.
As you recognize and seize opportunities to make decisions, over time you will see patterns, learn principles, and gain practical understanding of the laws of good decision-making, and you will put them into action.
Where will your family go out to eat? Can your teenager spend the night at his friend’s house? When should you get your transmission inspected? Should you refinance your house? Should you take that job and move your family to a different state? Will you volunteer for that service opportunity? What will you cover in your family Bible studies? Each decision is an opportunity to grow in your ability to decide according to God’s will.
Here are six steps to making good decisions.
Step one: Seek God’s guidance. Godly decision-making is not about deciding according to your will, your ideas and your comfort. It is about discovering God’s will and putting it into action. Thus, the first thing you must do in order to make right decisions is to do your best to learn God’s will.
Ask God for His wisdom. “In my ministry, I have seen many people make huge, terrible decisions that have hurt them badly—because of a lack of wisdom,” writes Gerald Flurry. “If any of you lack wisdom, go to God, and He will give it to you!” After citing James 3:17-18, he writes, “Study this passage and really learn what God’s wisdom will do in your life. If you understand it, you will be praying for more of that wisdom every day!” (The Epistle of James). When you face important decisions, really commit them to God in prayer and even fasting. Also, study your Bible to find relevant examples from which you can take counsel.
Step two: Get all the facts. Be careful of unnecessarily quick decisions under high pressure. Some decisions can be made quickly, but others must be carefully considered. Don’t put off a decision out of fear of deciding, but don’t be hasty either. On major decisions, it is crucial to ensure that you truly understand the situation. Take time to gather all the pertinent facts, make sure you are seeing all the options, and honestly assess pros and cons. In some cases, holding off for the time being is actually the best course of action.
Step three: Get wise counsel. A multitude of quality counsel will help prevent mistakes (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). Depending on the situation, you may receive much-needed counsel from your parents, your wife, your minister, a trusted friend, or a professional in a relevant field, such as a financial consultant for a business decision. This doesn’t mean going to others to make your decision for you. Nor does it provide a scapegoat upon whom to place blame if things don’t go well. But it can give you invaluable perspective that you would not gain any other way.
Step four: Decide! Make a decision based on your best judgment. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “You reach a conclusion based upon the facts as you see them, the evaluations of the several factors as you see them, the relationship of one fact to another, and, above all, your convictions as to the capacity of different individuals to fit into these different places. You come to a decision after you’ve taken all these things into consideration. Then you decide and say, ‘That’s what we’ll do.’”
Your decision should be clear. If someone were to ask your wife, What did your husband decide on that? she should be able to say, He decided to do this. She should not have to say, Well, I’m not sure, but it seems like he’s leaning in this direction. When it’s time, it’s time: Make a definite decision.
Step five: Have faith in the decision. Expect your choice to turn out to be right and good. Don’t waver or be double-minded. Don’t vacillate. Have faith that it will work out.
For someone who does not submit to God and is not empowered by God, this step would not work. But you have submitted to God, and you can and should have faith in the decision He has inspired. In addition, God blesses the decisions of the man who lives righteously (1 Kings 2:1-3).
You must believe. In Mark 9:23 Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth”! Trust that your decision will turn out as planned. Holding to your convictions is a huge part of this character-building process.
“It is interesting to know what this quality in a man does for a woman,” says Man of Steel and Velvet. “Although she loves the velvet in him, she needs his steel. This is her security. [S]he wants a leader!”
As you mature in your decision-making, sometimes you will experience opposition to your decisions. What do you do then?
“Men must be aware that, although it is wise to listen to family members, to consider their ideas, to accept good suggestions, it is never good leadership to give in against one’s better judgment. A mark of great leadership is to stand firm to one’s convictions, regardless of the feelings of others. This is not only a leader’s right, it is his obligation. [A] great leader must be a little hard-hearted at times. He must have the toughness of steel in following through on what he considers a right decision, even if it means bitter disappointment to those he is leading. This unalterable courage of his convictions is the supreme quality of leadership that brings order to a household” (ibid).
Consider the example of Gen. George Marshall on becoming secretary of state in 1947. In American Generalship, Edgar Puryear records an instance when a senior State Department officer advised Marshall to change a certain policy. Then the officer said that if his recommendation was not adopted, he would resign. The resignation would embarrass the administration; to avoid that, Secretary Marshall would be pressured into approving a decision that was actually made by the officer. But here is how Marshall promptly responded: “Mr. So-and-So, whether you or I work for the U.S. government has nothing to do with the merits of this question. So let’s remove the irrelevancy. I accept your resignation, effective immediately. Now that this matter is resolved, if you wish to spend a few minutes discussing the issues with me, I’ll hear your views.”
Co-workers, friends, children and wives may disagree with a decision you have made. They may even try to pressure you to change it after the fact. When that happens, have faith that prayer, study, research and counsel have led you to a God-inspired decision. And stick to your guns.
Step six: Work diligently to see it through. Here is a step we often overlook. You may put time and effort into making a good decision—but don’t neglect to put time and effort into making good on that decision!
For a decision to actually work, you must put it into action. So roll up your sleeves and make it work! If you don’t do this, even the best decision will fail. Be diligent. Be systematic. Thoroughly, diligently and judiciously do your part. Step by step, push through every phase of effort to the desired goal.
When You Make a Bad Decision
What happens when you make a decision that turns out to be a turkey? It will happen: We are human and full of fault. If it becomes clear you have made a mistake, it is important to admit wrong. Such humility is the mark of a mature man.
In some cases, you may have no choice but to live with the decision. In others, though reversing a decision may be possible, there may be more value in seeing it through and winning a victory of character in keeping your word. In yet other cases, as new facts come to light, changing course may be the best path. It takes wisdom to know when to be bullheaded and when to be flexible, “failing fast” so you can move quickly to the next decision.
After making a bad decision, analyze it to determine where you went wrong and how to do better next time. If there was sin involved, repent of it. Take responsibility, but don’t allow yourself to get discouraged or to think that this failure makes you a failure. Learn whatever you can from a mistake, and in the end it will be just another stepping-stone to success.
Understand the power God has given you to grow in godly character. Recognize situations where the person who needs to make the decision is you. Become ready and willing to seize these opportunities. And grow in your ability to make better and better decisions—a crucial aspect of biblical manhood.