This I Believe

Lee - Cordova, Tennessee
Entered on July 30, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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This I believe…

I believe in being decisive. For all my life, I’ve been taught to be decisive, in all things. Being decisive means being sure of one’s self when faced with dilemmas – or two-pronged – problems where choices should be clear. Being decisive means making a choice and then sticking with that choice, which is hopefully the right choice. Being decisive is generally regarded as a good trait in managers, leaders, and generals. When faced with its opposite, indecisiveness, being decisive can mean the difference between survival or death, victory or defeat, success or failure, heroism or cowardice.

My uncle, who I practically worshipped when I was young, was decisive, and he always told me that while driving a car, one had to be decisive; that half-measures would get you killed, as braking half-way into an intersection, or slowing down and balking while passing on a crowded Italian road could lead to accidents, or death. He would often impart this advice while scaring all passengers in his car half to death by his frequent speeding and risk-taking. This propensity for vehicular decisiveness led to several accidents when he was a young man; thankfully none in which anyone was injured, even when he managed to flip his little Renault Dauphine along the Adriatic coast, miraculously avoiding a hundred meter drop to the rocks and sea below.

Yes, my uncle was decisive. So decisive, in fact, that many years later, when faced with the untimely death of his much beloved wife, my aunt, due to cancer, he took his own life a year later, unable to adjust to a life without her. You see, his decision to be married to her was permanent, and the premature, uncontrollable end to his decision was simply too much for him to bear.

Today we have leaders in this country and around the world who believe in being decisive; to them, showing any kind of thoughtfulness or reflection prior to acting – or speaking – might appear as being weak, or God forbid, indecisive. We are bombarded by messages from politicians and their followers that we must be decisive when confronted by dangers from outside our borders. But when these dangers are posed by indefinable, unknowable, or even uncontrollable factors, wouldn’t it be prudent to become decisive when more information is gleaned, when more knowledge is acquired, in facing such dangers?

So I believe in being decisive. But while the mythologized, Old West notion of “shoot first and ask questions later” may appeal to some as the epitome of decisive action, I have also come to believe that decisiveness without thought and reflection – without acknowledging the potential consequences – can be suicidal.