Monday Morning Theological Poll: Decider Edition

What is most influential when you are making important personal decisions?

Justify your answer below.


  1. While I have sometimes felt inspired, with the exception of a warning to “get out of here, NOW!” no personal revelation has ever seemed so obvious and clear that I can report that personal revelation was the most important deciding factor in a decision. Words of ancient prophets in scripture or modern prophets in recent sources are never “one size fits all” — you still have to consider whether you’re understanding correctly and whether it is applicable in the circumstances. Each factor with a divine element, like advice or study or other earthly input, is just one factor that enters into personal reason and reflection.

    The most frustrating encounter with inspiration that I ever had was one where the very clear impression came in the words, “You’re smart; you’ll figure it out.” Within the next week, three different people — my mother, a ward member, my boss — used those precise words to me in contexts that had nothing to do with the decision I had to make; those people were completely unaware of the necessary decision, in fact. It almost felt like God was mocking me, telling me not to bother even to ask, because I’d have to make the decision on my own anyway.

  2. Manboob With A Purpose says:

    Ardis, I agree with you completely. I, too have felt like God was mocking me about even bothering to ask. Often, I can’t tell the difference between revelation and personal reason.

    I wonder if that’s because sometimes we need to receive revelation from the god inside us rather than the god over us.

  3. This question implies that one of these many inputs consistently predominates, even a little, over the others. That is not my experience. Rather, how these variables affect my decision-making process varies over time in unpredicted and likely unpredictable ways. Which isn’t to say that exploring how each of us individually and groups of us collectively explore this calculus isn’t important; rather, the answer to this question is incredibly contextualized.

  4. We are put here on earth to make our decisions. But there are points where we want to make sure that we’re not making a bad decision (who to marry, where to move to, where to go to school, etc). Sometimes we don’t receive revelation on those things, and it frustrates us. We shake our fist towards heaven and say “Isn’t it important where I move to?” and God might quietly respond with “It is. Which is why you need to make the decision. Not me.”
    I voted with personal revelation, because if I use my own reasoning, I’ll still let personal revelation trump my own reasoning. That’s only happened once in my life (thus far).

  5. Mark Lindstrom says:

    I said your own ability to reason because at the end of the day, we’re here on Earth to grow and to learn. I believe that God expects us to be able to reason things out for ourselves. Now, personal revelation can also be important, because with that God can tell you things you may have glanced over or of things that will happen that you can’t forsee. With experience though, we need less revelation and more ability to reason for ourselves.

  6. CS Eric says:

    I voted for my own ability to reason, because that has been the most common. There was a time where I had been fasting and praying about a certain question, and the clear answer I got was that I “was asking the wrong question.” Gee, thanks! The most recent instance came after I had been widowed for nearly six years, and met a widow that I was considering asking to marry me. The answer was “do whatever you want to do.” So even though I was seeking personal revelation, the revelation I got was to use my own best judgment, my own ability to reason.

  7. I chose personal revelation, but I have a hard time distinguishing between that and my own ability to reason. With some exceptions, I mostly recognize revelation in hindsight. The line between inspiration and reason is really fuzzy for me (again, with a few exceptions). But I ultimately chose revelation instead of reason because my brain is exceptionally good at rationalizing whatever it is that I choose, so I doubt that reason actually contributes all that much to the decision process, it more justifies to myself what it was that I decided.

  8. You didn’t offer ‘prayer’ as an option. That’s the way that I make my important decisions. So I went with personal revelation instead. Maybe prayer falls under that umbrella?

  9. thegenaboveme says:

    My decisions are usually multicausal. I loved being a teacher of comp/rhet and an administrator of support services for DECADES. But as I neared 50, I ended up quitting that career for one in gerontology. About 4 factors pushed me out of my job and about 4 factors pulled me into a grad program, volunteer work and later paid work. The stages were 1. change in feedback at work (for a lot of reasons 2. emotional chaos and my brain stubbornly denying that my long-time career wasn’t working in the current university 3. exploring options by daydreaming (vision board type stuff) and by fact-finding 4. a couple of salient negative conversations at work and a very clear understanding of my parents’ aging–which brought things to a crisis: one big push out and one big push in. 5. Needing a graceful exit from work and after six months of growing unease at work, now having already entertained this career switch in practical terms. 6. Once I decided to go, more details fell into place–could be God, could be my efficient manner. 7. Six months of intense “story construction” to myself and others to justify the change with the “available means of persuasion.” This meant using a mix of evidence and modes of critical thinking appropriate to the audience–so that my career switch was simultaneously logical, practical, socially valued, inspired, and emotionally satisfying by different degrees, depending on how I told the “my big midlife career switch” story and how much weight the hearer assigned to events, reasons, and new goals.

  10. I chose reason, but I try to use reason and revelation to guide my use of the other sources (and add to that scientific research and the opinions of experts).

  11. Dog Spirit says:

    I used to want desperately to use personal revelation for decision-making, as I wanted nothing more than to make the “right” decisions. This led to exactly zero answers to prayer, but massive episodes of anxiety and depression every time I had to make a significant decision, as well as an eventual existential crisis about the nature of God. I’ve given up on all that now, and I tell you what, using reason and letting go of “right” decisions has saved me a universe of trouble.

  12. I mostly just go by the condition of the entrails of the sacrificial beast. Haruspicy gets little love these days, but I never feel so close to the gods as when I’m elbow-deep in the slippery innards of a sheep.

  13. Not a Cougar says:

    I went with societal mores as a proxy for the idea that we don’t really understand our decision making nearly as well as we think we do. Biology and sociology influence us a whole heck of a lot more than we either realize or like to admit. Far too often, I think the rational and spiritual parts of our minds (is that how our brains work?) spend their time creating justifications for decisions made mostly on the instinctual level. Were this not the case, I suspect such things as interracial dating/marriage, joining a faith in which you were not raised, and voting for political parties whom your parents didn’t support as you enter middle age would be far more common than they actually are.

  14. Sometimes revelation comes instantly when a decision must be made, more commonly it is my experience that I must study things out in their entirety to the best of my ability, and then the impressions / solution becomes clear. It seems revelation and intuition require data, and with the data inputs then an impression can be formed when considering on that data. If there is nothing to consider, there is nothing to bring about output.

    I chose revelation, because that is the final thing that comes in which I confidently move forward. But my reasoning, emotional data, and entire capacities are an integral component of that process, in many ways they unify and become one and the same.

  15. larryco_ says:

    It’s 5:13 a.m. on the 24th and I would like to pay tribute to the 3 respondents who were honest enough to admit that societal pressures (from work, church, associates, etc.) are responsible for many of their decisions. I was not one of them.

  16. I would say many or all of those factors are involved in my decision-making, but I selected
    “my own ability to reason,” because that is what it comes down to.

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