by Christa Brown BSN, RN, Medical Specialist/APR Coordinator
- Move in?
- Get tested?
- Leave the relationship?
- Quit the job?
- Continue the pregnancy?
- Hang out with some old friends?
Clients we serve are often in the midst of making relationship, pregnancy, sexual, career, health, and a variety of other major life choices. We are given the honor and privilege of assisting them in this process.
We want the best outcomes for the women and men we are called to serve. But how do we successfully assist them navigate these life-altering decisions when sometimes there is no clear right or wrong? How do we allow them to choose without imposing our will on them? How do we help them succeed?
Often we see the situations they face in only black and white, good and bad. But the choices they are making might not always be answered that way. And the backgrounds of clients, the present circumstances and their future goals in life are all different. The better thought process might be, “what is the wise thing to do?”
- Not - what is everyone else doing?
- Not - what can they get away with?
- Not –what did they do last time?
- Not – what’s wise for their friends?
- Not – what are others saying they should do?
Many clients have had some conditional love such as, “If you make the decision I want you to, I’ll care about you”, but very little unconditional love. Friends and family with other agendas can create doubt in the patient's choices. Even a very positive decision can feel completely wrong and clients might waiver either for a moment or for an extended length of time. As they struggle to get footing, it’s important we are not yet another voice causing them confusion. Pushing the decision we want might cause clients to agree in the moment, but it will likely not remain a long-term decision.
The big question becomes –
“In light of past experience, current circumstances, future hopes & dreams, what’s the wise thing to do?”
Looking at past experiences can bring clarity to current decisions. But it can be easy to be deceived into thinking that doing the same thing will achieve different results. We all believe we can manage outcomes. We tell ourselves, “I know last time didn’t go well, but this time is different.” Decisions made in the past have created the realities of today.
It’s also important to look at current circumstances to understand how they are affecting decisions. It’s not uncommon to want the easier way or immediate satisfaction. It’s just human nature to avoid thinking of the many outcomes that one decision might bring.
And thirdly, the vision for tomorrow can guide today’s decisions. It’s important for clients to see clearly their hopes and dreams and understand how today’s decisions affect them. It’s almost always a bad idea to trade something desired now for something wanted in the future. Friends and family might not have the same ambitions, so decisions might not be understood or supported. It’s a good exercise to brainstorm those hopes and dreams and even write them down, so they can remain in focus.
Here are some steps that can be used to help process decisions:
- Clearly outline the issue. “The decision I need to make is...”
- Outline all the options.
- Consider the risks and benefits of each.
- Slow down. Don’t make the decision under pressure or in haste.
- Gather information needed about all options.
- Create an action plan for the decision.
- Make a long-term commitment to this choice.
As these decisions are processed, clients might not be consistent. When the trajectory has been set for quite some time and suddenly a different plan is made, the line sometimes doesn’t stay straight. Clients sometimes take two steps forward and three steps back. But then a few more steps. It’s important that we show our pride in them for each accomplishment. We might be the only ones cheering them on. But it’s equally important to let them know they can always be honest about those steps backwards. We cannot help them if they never return. Even if they make decisions they know we might not agree with, clients need ongoing support offered without judgment and condemnation. That can be the most difficult part of working in a center - maybe one of the hardest things we will ever do. But it’s what God calls us to, and it’s what will make the difference – loving them unconditionally.
Assisting clients to navigate very complicated waters can be both challenging and rewarding. With education and support, most clients are well capable of making good, healthy decisions. We can be the voice of support and love that helps them make the best choices possible. One good move forward today can affect all of the future.
“Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” Psalms 107:43 NKJV
Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic ([Rev. ed.].). New York: Free Press.
Covey, S. (2014). The 7 habits of highly effective teens: The ultimate teenage success guide. New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster.
Stanley, A. (2014). Ask It. The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions. Danvers, MA: Multnomah Books.