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    (see also CHOICE)

    Former president Ronald Reagan once had an aunt who took him to a cobbler for a pair of new shoes. The cobbler asked young Reagan, "Do you want square toes or round toes?" Unable to decide, Reagan didn't answer, so the cobbler gave him a few days. Several days later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked him again what kind of toes he wanted on his shoes. Reagan still couldn't decide, so the shoemaker replied, "Well, come by in a couple of days. Your shoes will be ready." When the future president did so, he found one square-toed and one round-toed shoe! "This will teach you to never let people make decisions for you," the cobbler said to his indecisive customer. "I learned right then and there," Reagan said later, "if you don't make your own decisions, someone else will." 

    Today in the Word, MBI, August, 1991, p. 16.

    During World War II, Winston Churchill was forced to make a painful choice. The British secret service had broken the Nazi code and informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry. He had two alternatives: (1) evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of lives at the expense of indicating to the Germans that the code was broken; or (2) take no action, which would kill hundreds but keep the information flowing and possibly save many more lives. Churchill had to choose and followed the second course. 

    Klyne Snodgrass, Between Two Truths - Living with Biblical Tensions, 1990, Zondervan Publishing House, p. 179.

    The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn. 

    David Russell.

    When in charge, ponder. When in trouble, delegate. When in doubt, mumble.

    Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go on. 

    Andrew Jackson.

    It may be true that there are two sides to every question, but it is also true that there are two sides to a sheet of flypaper, and it makes a big difference to the fly which side he chooses.


    In my search for an assistant, I had narrowed the applicants to two women. One had more experience; the other was more personable. I headed for my boss's office, still undecided. Realizing I needed help, he produced a quarter, saying, "Heads, It's experience. Tails, it's personality." He flipped the quarter into the air and then asked, "Quick! What are you thinking?" "Tails," I blurted. It was true. I had been wishing it would come up tails. The quarter landed in his palm and without looking at it, he said, "Call Personnel with your executive decision." 

    Donna Paciullo, in Reader's Digest.

    A husband and wife, prior to marriage, decided that he'd make all the major decisions and she the minor ones. After 20 years of marriage, he was asked how this arrangement had worked. "Great! in all these years I've never had to make a major decision."

    Source Unknown.

    A farmer hired a man to work for him. He told him his first task would be to paint the barn and said it should take him about three days to complete. But the hired man was finished in one day. The farmer set him to cutting wood, telling him it would require about 4 days. The hired man finished in a day and a half, to the farmer's amazement. The next task was to sort out a large pile of potatoes. He was to arrange them into three piles: seed potatoes, food for the hogs, and potatoes that were good enough to sell. The farmer said it was a small job and shouldn't take long at all. At the end of the day the farmer came back and found the hired man had barely started. "What's the matter here?" the farmer asked. "I can work hard, but I can't make decisions!" replied the hired man.

    Source Unknown.

    In April, 1986, Larry Burkett (on his radio program) spoke of a young couple who wanted to buy a home, but felt it to be too expensive for them. They told God, "If you want us to buy it, 1) have the contractor accept only 1/2 of what he's asking for the down payment, and 2) have the bank approve our loan. Both events happened and they bought the home. They soon began to go into debt. The problem: what to do now, since God "directed" them to do this!

    Larry Burkett.

    I remember one winter my dad needed firewood, and he found a dead tree and sawed it down. In the spring, to his dismay, new shoots sprouted around the trunk. He said, "I thought sure it was dead. The leaves had all dropped in the wintertime. It was so cold that twigs snapped as if there were no life left in the old tree. But now I see that there was still life at the taproot." He looked at me and said, "Bob, don't forget this important lesson. Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst mood. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come." 

    Robert H. Schuller, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!, Thomas Nelson.

    Irving Janis lists some of the symptoms of groupthink in his study of high-level governmental decision makers:

    -Prime among these is the sharing of an illusion of invulnerability which leads to over optimism and causes planners to fail to respond to clear warnings of danger and be willing to take extraordinary risks.
    -Secondly, the participants in groupthink ignore warnings and construct rationalizations in order to discount them.
    -Third, victims of groupthink have an unquestioned belief in the inherent morality of their in group actions, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
    -Fourth, victims of groupthink hold stereotyped views of the leaders of enemy groups. They are seen as so evil that there is no warrant for arbitration or negotiation or as too weak or too stupid to put up an effective defense.
    -Fifth, victims of groupthink, says Janis, apply direct pressure on any individual who momentarily expresses doubts about any of the group's shared illusions, or questions the validity of the arguments.
    -Sixth, unanimity becomes an idol. Victims of groupthink avoid deviating from what appears to be the group consensus; they keep silent about their misgivings and even minimize to themselves the importance of their doubts.

    Victims of groupthink sometimes appoint themselves as "mindguards" to protect the leader and fellow members from adverse information. Janis quotes Robert Kennedy as having taken one of the members of the group aside and told him, "You may be right or you may be wrong, but the President has made his mind up. Don't push it any further. Now is the time for everyone to help him all they can." Janis also lists some of the symptoms of the resulting inadequacy of problem-solving. Among these are the limitation of discussion to only a few alternative courses of action, the failure to reexamine some of the initially preferred and now discarded courses of action, and the failure to seek information from experts within the same organization who could supply more precise estimates of possible losses and gains from alternate courses of action. 

    K. Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin?, pp. 96, 97; Irving L. Janis, "Groupthink," Psychology Today, 5:43 (November, 1971).

    Statistics and Stuff

    The words of Eleanor Roosevelt ring true: One's philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. 

    Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway,  p. 143.

    Years ago a professor at Stanford devised a check lest of nine questions that can be applied to any problem. Used as a self- quiz, the questions spur imagination. They are:

    1. Is there a new way to do it?
    2. Can you borrow or adapt?
    3. Can you give it a new twist?
    4. Do you merely need more of the same?
    5. Less of the same?
    6. Is there a substitute?
    7. Can the parts be rearranged?
    8. What if we do just the opposite?
    9. Can ideas be combined?

    Bits & Pieces, February, 1990, p. 20.

    While an open mind is priceless, it is priceless only when its owner has the courage to make a final decision which closes the mind for action after the process of viewing all sides of the question has been completed. Failure to make a decision after due consideration of all the facts will quickly brand a man as unfit for a position of responsibility. Not all of your decisions will be correct. None of us is perfect. But if you get into the habit of making decisions, experience will develop your judgment to a point where it is better to be right fifty percent of the time and get something done, than it is to get nothing done because you fear to reach a decision. 

    H.W. Andrews.

    Actually, a manager needs the ability not only to make good decisions himself, but also to lead others to make good decisions. Charles Moore, after four years of research at the United Parcel Service reached the following conclusions:

    1. Good decisions take a lot of time.
    2. Good decisions combine the efforts of a number of people.
    3. Good decisions give individuals the freedom to dissent.
    4. Good decisions are reached without any pressure from the top to reach an artificial consensus.
    5. Good decisions are based on the participation of those responsible for implementing them.

    Charles W.L. Foreman, "Managing a Decision Into Being," from the Management Course for Presidents, pp.3-4.

    What kind of person is best able to involve others and himself in good decision making? J. Keith Louden lists seven qualities:

    1. The ability to look ahead and see what's coming -- foresight.
    2. Steadiness, with patience and persistence and courage.
    3. A buoyant spirit that in spite of cares generates confidence.
    4. Ingeniousness, the ability to solve problems soundly yet creatively.
    5. The ability to help others.
    6. Righteousness, the willingness to do the right thing and speak the truth.
    7. Personal morality of a quality that commands the respect of others.**

    J. Keith Louden, "Leadership," from the Management Course for Presidents, pp 10-11.


    To every man there openeth
    A way, and ways, and a way.
    And some men climb the high way,
    And some men grope below,
    And in between on the misty flats
    The rest drift to and fro.
    And to every man there openeth
    A high way and a low;
    And every man decideth
    Which way his soul shall go.

    John Oxenham.