Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski On Decision Making

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski urges us all to make decisions with integrity and objectivity without judging them on their consequences, writes Sudhamahi Regunathan

“Decision making is part of the issue of assertiveness. Assertiveness can be with other people, but you have to be assertive with yourself, with personal decisions,” says Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski.

This is one of his many talks available on Youtube, each one dealing with a specific subject. This one is about making decisions. Another talk on stress tells the story of how a lobster keeps moving out of the shelf where it is bred to make space for its growing body. If a lobster did not have the stress of finding new space every time, Dr Twerski says it would never grow. But, we humans treat our stress with tablets and do not find the right impetus for growth within that stress!

Talking of decisions, Dr Twerski says some decisions do not have such far reaching consequences, but, he says, “…some decisions are much greater…like the decision of whom you are going to marry, what kind of profession you want…”

The wisdom comes with the following line, “First thing we have to realise is that we are not always going to make the correct decision, all the time. Only God can be right one hundred per cent. I am going to make wrong decisions but my decision making has to be with integrity. If I think about whether I should operate a person or not, it is not about how much I can collect for the operation, but what is the best thing for this patient. So we must realise that we are housed within a physical body that has desires, impulses etc., and they may colour our decision. We may not realize that sometimes we are bribed and the bribe is that we want things to turn out a certain way and we don’t like the decision on what is really right because we see what is really right as what we want to be right.”

What is the “really right? The Rabbi answers, “There was a great Hasidic rabbi who was asked by one of his followers, ‘How can I make good decisions?’ The rabbi said, ‘Did you ever watch a tight pole walker? He said the way a tight rope walker keeps his balance is that when he feels himself pulled over to the one side, he over corrects by leaning to the other side. That keeps his balance.’ So when you have a desire to do something, the foremost thing you have to recognize is that most of our desires come from our animalistic traits. So, the first thing you should do is to think why you should not do it and then lean over to the other side and make a decision.”

The key is, “We have to have self confidence and make our decisions and realise that I am capable of taking decisions and there are times that I have to ask expert advice. Ultimately, the decisions are mine. I have also got to realize that not making a decision is also a decision. And I have to realize that if I am not going to make decisions, other people are going to make them for me and the decisions that other people are going to make for me will actually be much worse. That will be the worst decision that I can make for myself. I have my own interest and most people know what is good for them. Making decisions is getting the best possible information, having self confidence and it is appropriate to pray for decisions: to help me make the right decision.”

The essence of the matter however is, “…not to see a decision that has poor consequences as a horrible failure on our part. Decisions are good or bad depending on how we made them not depending on the consequences.”

The learning: be assertive with yourself, make your own decisions, make them with integrity and objectivity and do not judge them on the basis of how they work out.

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