Paralyzed by Indecision and Fear
My seventeen-year old heart was pounding out of my chest, as I intensely focused on NOT DYING. I had seen the low, dark clouds rolling in over the farmland on the highway south of Kansas City, but they packed a punch even worse than I expected. It was 4:00PM, but soon, all I could see was darkness, rain and lightning.
Poor visibility forced me to pull my car over to the side of the road underneath a bridge. Others had pulled over too, but the big trucks still barreled by, throwing extra water on my car.
Finally, it cleared just enough that I decided to proceed. I was pretty rattled by it all, but I needed to move forward, so I nervously proceeded. It took me 3 ½ hours to drive 70 miles, and by the time I pulled into the parking lot of the Apache Motel, I had a very hard time unwrapping my fingers from the steering wheel.
In life, there are times that we need to pull over and wait for visibility and clarity. But there are also times that we need to proceed, even if our visibility is limited. This does not come easy for cautious people, because we know all about those impulsive people.
Impulsive people are apt to make foolish decisions. They decide before gathering facts and thinking carefully. Then they end with unwanted debt, relationships or tattoos.
Impulsive people scare us, and our own impulsive decisions haunt us. So we move to the other extreme. We refuse to decide until we are 100% sure.
Have you ever been in a packed car of indecisive people trying to choose a restaurant?
Q. “What is worse than not choosing the best restaurant?”
A. “Mindlessly wasting gas, while not choosing any restaurant at all.”
Several months ago, I was compelled to ask a couple of men to join me for a season of intentional spiritual growth and challenge. I knew that the potential benefits for our lives, our families and others whom we would serve could be very significant. I committed to lead this. All I needed to do was choose whom to ask.
I made a list of potential guys, gathered all of the facts, wrote down my thoughts, prayed, sought advice and contemplated my decision. But I still lacked certainty.
So I waited. And waited. And then I waited some more.
Eventually, my waiting looked a lot more like I had chosen to do nothing. My indecision had led to paralysis.
Does this scenario ring a bell?
I was 100% confident when I asked Beth to be my wife. Other than that, I cannot name many important decisions in my adult life that were 100% sure no-brainers.
Different decisions require different levels of certainty. But I have found that waiting for 100% certainty can absolutely paralyze me.
In my story, I recognized a few things that helped me get over the hump:
- Fear of making the wrong choice was dominating me.
- I had indeed spent adequate time praying and thinking.
- Waiting was likely not going to produce more clarity.
- Waiting longer would be choosing to do nothing.
I realized that I just needed to act. To move.
I extended the invitation to a few guys. Two out of three committed. One of them said, “I was praying this week for an opportunity like this.” We have already been very encouraged and agreed on some challenges ahead. Moving ahead with only about 65% certainty was the right call.
Some decisions require more than 65% certainty (like whom to marry). But many decisions require less (like which canned good you should donate to the community food bank). I volunteer at our church’s food pantry, and I can tell you that we would rather have extra green beans than to have nothing because you are trying to make the perfect decision.
Acts 15:28 catches my attention. The Apostles were faced with a tense, difficult situation. They considered all that they had learned from God and they also considered the impact their decision would have on many people. And they started their concluding statements with this:
“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”
Sometimes the Apostles gave clear commands that demonstrated absolute clarity on their part. But I believe that we can conclude that in this situation, they did not have 100% clarity, but they did have ENOUGH clarity to move forward.
That’s the key. We must have ENOUGH clarity. Once we have enough for the given situation, we ought to then move forward.
What good things remain undone in your life because you are paralyzed by indecision? Is it time to drive through the fog?
Cautious friends, have you experienced Paralysis by Indecision? How did you overcome it?