Renee is busy assisting customers so I pretend to shop until her line clears. She is efficient, so this shouldn’t take long. Meanwhile, a different clerk stands ready to help but I don’t trust him. These extra clerks cycle in and out as often as the temperature changes the first week of Spring. Renee is dependable. Renee is professional. I’ve made mistakes that left my eyes bleeding, but Renee can fix the problem in less than five minutes. Renee can turn purple to beige, blue to gray. Renee knows paint.
I’m waiting for Renee because I have once again chosen a poor choice of paint color. Why can’t I select the proper paint the first time? I’ve spent ridiculous hours in front of those three useless bulbs, which supposedly mimic different lighting. I’ve walked miles back and forth to the store window because I don’t trust the useless bulbs. I’ve even google pictures of rooms using the paint colors for a better feel of the tiny differences between shades. Inevitably, I’m back at home that evening with a frown, my bubble burst and excitement evaporated.
I’ve been thinking about my paint choices lately as I’ve pondered my overall ability to make decisions. I guess I’m your classic over-thinker as any decision has to go through rigorous channels of thought before a conclusion is delivered. You’d think I’d be satisfied with a decision resulting from such mental preparation, but then I begin to doubt the conclusion. Perhaps I should have ran the question through different channels? Maybe there was more information I should have inferred?
I hate making decisions. I would rather go to the dentist than decide what to include in my five year plan. The world is my oyster but I’d rather someone tell me what to do. Decision making is painful. Aware that this issue had risen above self-destruction (and that choosing the right self-help book would take too long) I sought the wisdom of a friend.
Cristin is to an indecisive person what a magician is to a child. She can walk in and out of a paint store in ten minutes having set in motion a color pallet for an entire house. She can choose where to eat lunch without raising her anxiety level one degree. She can change careers or houses as though she knows she has always made the right choice. People like me want to follow people like Cristin because it feels as though she can see the whole puzzle while we hold only a tiny piece. I’ve known Cristin for fifteen years and have never witnessed her struggle when a choice needs to be made. Cristin is a minor genius in decision making.
In the foreward to What the Dog Saw, Malcolm Gladwell explains bits of his writing style, mentioning how he likes to interview “minor geniuses.” To him, educated, typically middle-class folks, having a piece of specialized knowledge, but who are not incredibly popular are the source of a wealth of information. These people don’t have a lot to lose and generally know a great deal about specific subject matters.
Think diaper creams.
Would you rather talk about diaper creams from the CEO of P&G or from the stay-at-home mom of four? The CEO has a lot at stake during the conversation. The mom could care less what you think of her. She can eliminate redness in less than an hour and that baby will sleep well through the night. Take her advice or leave it, but she knows a thing or two about a baby’s bum. She could be considered a minor genius in curing diaper rash.
I loved Gladwell’s idea of minor geniuses. But with the idea came a frenzy of questions, “Could this be something that’s is lacking in our churches? Could this by why there are so many Christian bloggers and authors today? Perhaps we want to offer the specified knowledge we feel we possess but no one is asking. If a brother or sister in Christ has become a minor genius in suffering well, wouldn’t it be wise for me to learn from them?”
I decided to apply Gladwell’s wisdom to my own life. If I want to figure out how to have confidence in my decision making, I need to interview the person I know who has done it the best. I need to ask a fellow believer who has become an expert in the field.
You can’t help but notice Cristin when she walks into the room. She is 5’10” and unafraid to wear heels. She’s also incredibly beautiful and dresses in a trendy way that seems effortless. We haven’t seen each other in several months, but she’s the type of friend in which this makes no difference. I have my notebook open and ready to soak up all the wisdom I can glean in a short hour of conversation.
“You think I’m a minor genius at being a jerk, right?” Cristin begins. I hadn’t disclosed all of my intentions in interviewing her, only that I saw her as a genius in a certain area. I wanted her answers to be as authentic as possible so I intentionally left her unprepared.
I jump right in, hitting her with the big stuff. I ask her how she is able to be so confident in each decision she makes, from paint colors to career choices. How does she seem so sure that she is making the correct choice? I prepare myself for a response that is ground-breaking. And in her own way, Cristin doesn’t disappoint.
“I guess I don’t see any decision as permanent. Paint can be changed, clothes can be changed, etc. No one really cares about the color on my wall except me or my husband. If we don’t like it, I’ll just change it.” She continues her response while I try to keep my mind moving forward. In truth, I needed an hour to dissect this one piece of information. I tend to see every decision as permanent, or at least that type of weight is present in every question. I want perfection the first time around. The thought that a every choice doesn’t need to be perfect was liberating.
She continued with a few strategies that most people utilize: Consulting with the wise, learning from other’s mistakes, and prayer. She talked about dropping societal norms/dreams/goals and replacing them with what matters to an individual. “As long as you’re growing, who cares what you’re doing. I learned as much from being a waitress as I did in college.” Her life goal was personal growth; not a dollar figure, a home, occupation, etc. She didn’t even mention a rate of growth — Just growth. Liberating.
Then, like a butterfly not noticing its own beauty, Cristin gracefully reveals her hand, “There’s this thing in psychology called black and white thinking. It’s where people see things, or people, as all good or all bad. If a person does something wrong, they’re bad. If they do something right, they’re good. But in truth, most things and people are a little of both. The world is more gray, and that’s how we should think of things. We need to accept the good with the bad. I may make a wrong decision but it doesn’t mean that I am bad. I try to keep my mind operating in the gray.”
Cristin called it gray, but I instantly knew it’s true name—Grace.
Since I met Cristin, I have watched her repeatedly welcome the oddballs or, as some may term, the unlovable. I’ve watched her visit establishments that would seem dodgy to most folks. I’ve watched her live in homes where beer bottles are regularly smashed on her sidewalk. I’ve watched her persevere through years of frustrating situations when the majority would have walked away after a few weeks. Cristin doesn’t operate out of a gray mindset, Cristin operates out of grace.
My friend is able to make decisions with apparent ease because she extends this grace to herself. She knows that she, too, is human. But, Cristin takes the good with the bad. She sets her mind to keep growing as a person and continues to love herself along the way. She confessed that sometimes condemnation or doubt creeps in and decision making becomes so hard she, “can’t even get dressed in the morning.” But an occasion such as this is rare. Being so conditioned in exuding grace, she can push past this fleeting condemnation.
Being more like Cristin in this sense simply means being more like Christ. There may be a few tricks the world could offer an indecisive person, but pursuing a heart of grace seems like a wise place to begin. Increasing the grace of one’s heart would not only lighten a personal burden but ignite a fire of grace and love extending to those surrounding them.
Based on how the world typically deals with issues, I had expected Cristin to give me some three-step, logical outline on how to become a great decision maker. I guess I equally assumed she may deny her talent and beat around the bush, offering some typical Christian suggestions. Thankfully my friend is one who loves others and desires true healing.
What did I learn from my minor genius interview on how to have confidence in my decision making? Always choose grace.