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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Decisions/choices we make and the "fog of war".

This will be a short sweet blog this morning.   This reminds me of a blog that I did on Finding peace in the eye of the storm vs. shelter from it.

I was talking to a friend the other day and he explained to me that if he was back in the situation he was years ago he'd have approached things much differently.   As the famous saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  But what does that really mean?

  • Clearly we just learn more over time.  We are exposed to more circumstances that we have never faced or been through.   We also are exposed to similar circumstances multiple times.  This is to say, we can't help but pick up more knowledge and/or a greater understanding.  For example, we may empathize with a friend who lost a parent, but until we've lost a parent and had to handle that, we just don't know what all goes into dealing with the death of a parent.  Hindsight being 20/20 means if we'd known all that goes into it before it happened, we'd possibly have made better decisions.
  • We 'had the knowledge' at the time we faced the circumstances in question, but there was something blocking us from truly seeing it situation completely and/or executing the choices/decisions we should have.  This is what I refer to as "the fog of war".  Here are a few examples of the 'fog of war':
    • We know what we need to do, but our pride gets in the way.  We simply can't get or see past it.  For example, we might be struggling to find a job in our field, but we also need to pay the bills.  In this situation pride might cause us to not take a lesser job for a while, while looking for the job we 'should be able to get'.  After our pride has cleared, we will realize that we probably brought on more hardship than we needed to.
    • We feel shame or guilt over something in our own life and let it get in the way of decision-making/choices.  In other words, shame and guilt cloud over our thought process.  For example, I think it is common for divorced parents to let the guilt or shame in their role in the unraveling of their marriage get in the way.  Also, guilt or shame over the damage of divorce to the children, can get in the way of their parenting.   If someone feels like they played a large role in the failure of their marriage, it might leave them feeling compromised, for example.  If they feel guilty about what a divorce is doing or has done to their child, then they may be lax in discipline or let things slide that they normally wouldn't.  When you feel bad about yourself, it can be harder to hold another accountable the way you should.  After the feelings have subsided, it will likely be much easier to see past the guilt or shame and just focus on exactly what needs to be done.  We might look back and said I tolerated too much disobedience and I wish I'd be more assertive.
    • Someone close to us is dying or dies.  We are busy mourning their passing or imminent passing.  We can be overwhelmed with thoughts about the situation.  Our normally clear thinking can take second place to the intense hurt or passion of the situation.  As a practical matter we are focused on the (impending) loss and we just don't have enough emotional space to allow our clearer thoughts to take root.  After the situation has calmed down or we've had time to grieve, things can be much clearer.

The long and short of it is this.  When the passions, emotions, guilt/shame or other demons are present, we may know on some level what choices to make, but we may get distracted from making the best choice based on those obstacles to our 'sight' or not having the strength to move past them at the time.  We may unintentionally rationalize our decisions/choices due to our lacking strength or courage.  That is to say, if we are not up to making the best decision, we may just make the decisions that we are able to and find a way to rationalize it as the 'best decision'.  This isn't meant as a criticism, but an unfortunate reflection of the reality at the time.

I guess this all points to the following plan of action:

  1. Doing the best we can do with the information we have at the time.
  2. Considering that unseen and underestimated obstacles might be in the way of our making the best decision or choice.
  3. Praying for wisdom and insight into making the right choice. Praying that we can see past any obstacles.
I believe if we work those three basic steps we can cut down on hindsight or regretful thinking no matter how things turn out.