There’s a popular business book called Noise. In it, the authors (Kahneman et al) examine the various factors impacting business decisions. They argue that even so called experts in a field will make often wildly different decisions given the same sets of data. There are numerous reasons for it including bias and something they call noise. Noise are those often random things impacting a decision which we often aren’t even aware of ourselves.
The authors give examples like judges being more lenient if their favorite team won the night before (An actual study found this to be true!) Or when a group making hiring decisions between three relatively equal candidates ends up choosing the preference of the first person who speaks up, even if that wasn’t actually everyone’s initial pick in their minds. You’d have to read the book and work through a bunch of statistics and studies within it to get the complete picture of noise, but I think you get the general idea.
The problem with noise is that it can cause really smart people to make really bad decisions – in part because they are unaware of their own biases and all of the noise impacting their decisions. Because the authors weren’t writing a Christian book, they left out one of the biggest causes of noise in many decisions – Satan’s “voice”. No, he doesn’t whisper in our ears, but you can be sure in decisions that could impact someone’s faith journey, he makes sure we hear his noise from a variety of people and circumstances.
The authors also don’t discuss how to use faith to counter some of this noise. One of their strategies, ironically, would work even better if God had been inserted into it. They found that if you need to make a tough decision, making it in theory, then waiting a few weeks and revisiting the decision yields the best final decision. It works particularly well if the person assumes their first preliminary decision was wrong and attempts to figure out why it was wrong.
Even though it may have been the right choice, the exercise can illuminate anything that was missed the first time. This method was found to yield better results than asking several people for their opinions on the choice. This method would work even better if the decision maker did the exercise trying to process the decision through the eyes of God, using scripture, prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The question is, “Do your young Bible students know about all the noise that is impacting their decision making?” Have you spent time helping them examine their thoughts processes when they have a decision to make? Have you taught them how to differentiate between Satan’s noise and God’s direction? Can you teach them the Christian life skill of decision making and help them practice using it so they can make godly choices more consistently?
Exposing your Bible students to a lot of scripture is great. If they don’t know how to use it in decision making though, it’s not really helpful. Godly decision making is not as intuitive as we seem to think it is. We need to start teaching young people HOW to make godly decisions and not rely on giving them the right decision for a particular situation. Life is too variable and changes too quickly. Those right choices you are teaching may not appear to fit the particular situation in which a young person might find himself or herself. That’s why many seem to make poor choices so easily…they weren’t able to connect the dots when the dots varied from the examples they were given. Teach them the skill set and the dots can vary greatly without confusing them nearly as much with their noise.