Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Indecision: A State of Freedom or A Kind of Captivity?

If I've gone kind of quiet again recently, it's because I've had a lot of decisions to make. Having decisions means having choices, which in turn means having freedom -- and this is good, yes? Especially when I think of people who are held in captivity, or who simply feel trapped in their lives, I remember that freedom is a privilege, a gift.

But even so, having too much to decide can feel like a burden. Maybe it is because the act of making a decision is an act of letting go of the freedom offered by having a range of possibilities -- once you make your decision, you now lock into a specific course of action.

Or maybe that's not it at all. Maybe the problem is that the state of having to make decisions is a state in which your attention is seized and controlled. It's hard to think about other things when you are preoccupied with important decisions. So the state of indecision is not actually freedom, but it can be a way of feeling held captive. You are held captive by having to think about something and being unable to actually act until you have finally decided.

So, is the state of having a lot of decisions to make a state of freedom, or a kind of captivity -- or, paradoxically, both?


  1. You are speaking my language/life of the last months and days. I find it a paradox that I am bound by my desire to make changes in my life. I recieve an invitation from within. An aspiration wells up inside and carrys me to the borders of my experience (comfort) and asks me to invade the territory beyond it. The territory of the unknown. And I feel pressured and bound to give this aspiration an answer. A concrete decision for it to flesh itself out/into. I actually have to change my world before I will be at peace again. I WANT to decide. I WANT the change...deep down...but the invitation can sometimes seem threatening. And there is the paradox for me. I feel mySELF is coercing myself.

    The hard part for me is in learning there is self determination. That I do write the story of my life in this very way. Being more reactive in the past and making decisions based on peer pressure or community trends is not really autonomy. Not really decision. It is agreement. It can be good. But some decisions seem more imprisoning to me precisely because I am alone in making them. And When I do make them they are far more life giving...even if difficult at first...than socially directed decisions.

    So...all that to say...I hear something valuable in what you wrote and...thanks. The only freedom I am finding these days comes from being willingly bound to that part of mySELF (where God "speaks") that leads me on into new experiences. Sometimes I have to trick myself into doing what IT wants. What I want.


  2. I wish you well in your discernment! You articulate well why this can be so hard.

    I really appreciate what you say about how we author our lives, and the difference between living according to social pressures and claiming our own autonomy. The latter is hard especially when it may go against the social and relational expectations we find ourselves embedded in. The others around us might in fact be supportive of the decisions we make that run counter to their expectations, but we cannot really know this in advance, making such choices hard.

    The only way to answer the uncertainties is to live forth our decision. (And, as someone pointed out to me recently, stalling is itself a kind of decision, with its own implications and consequences. Are we willing to take responsibility for even this kind of decision: stalling?)

    Again, I wish you well in your discernment and decision-making. I wish you clarity, courage, and strength to live fully into whatever is next.