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Information Overload.


If the people over in the psychology department are on point many humans suffer from the latest mind malady, decision fatigue. Officially it "...is the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after long sessions of decision making". The experts indicate that it is now understood as one of the causes of "irrational trade-offs in decision making" (see decision fatigue @ www.wikipedia.org). And, isn't it so? The weariness of choices, selections, possibilities, options, and final outcomes is one of the more bothersome elements of exponential times. I remember grinning when I read that CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs wore the same outfits every day because it removed a layer of decision making at the start of their work day. It seemed rather eccentric. Now, after some thought and study, it sounds reasonable.

The downside of decision fatigue are the poor choices many people make after laboring through the information overload necessary for taking the right path. They say that the weight of study, deliberation, analysis, and making final answers results in decision avoidance, impulse purchasing, and impaired self-regulation. How many times do we say yes to a particular option simply because the process of choosing has worn us to the bone? Throwing caution, and sometimes good sense, to the wind is the shortest and less complex avenue. Fughedaboudit is often our final answer.

To say we're living in the information age is certainly an understatement. That label became common in the 1970's and has zoomed to even larger dimensions in this nineteenth year of the twenty-first century. If you'd like a broad summary of the technological advances of these times click here. It's a common language review of the digital advances of our times. The long and short is that we are living in times when data is abundantly available all the time. If information is the basic stuff of good decision making, then there's plenty of it. And, that's an asterisk in the decision fatigue thing. Decisions weary us when we have to sift through so much information. After a while, it becomes throw up your hands time.

Still, information matters when narrowing choices and choosing one option over another. With a Christian worldview I want to learn Scriptural guidance in weighing the information overload when decision fatigue wearies my brain synapses. Yes, there are many verses in Solomon's proverbs about seeking counsel and advice, about solid thought processes when seeking answers, about the first steps in any decision process----what information should I believe and use in my reaching a final conclusion?

Let me go off script for a moment. The Apostle Paul's first epistle to the church at Corinth has been a source of personal inspiration in the gamut of decision making. He wrote the sixteen chapters of the letter to address some troubling issues in the Corinthian congregation. He had learned of these issues from Christian friends who had been in Corinth. Members of the household of Chloe (see 1 Corinthians 1: 11), his mission friends Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (see 1 Corinthians 16:17), and Apollos (see Acts 19: 1). Now, the Apostle Paul and these mission partners didn't live in an information like ours. But, the Apostle Paul had to decide how to let their information about Corinth influence his letters to them. Between the lines there are some valuable lessons about the information overload that often covers us when important decisions have to be made.

1. The Apostle Paul obviously knew and trusted his sources of information.

That's a hard one in an information rich culture like ours. Who of us can know the many sources that travel the information super highway? Well, yes, there are background checks and reference services. But, they take time as well and we tend to go easy on internet references. But, when we're making life decisions, we must know and trust those who are ready with information. Solomon wrote, "Faithful are the words of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:6).

2. There was obviously unity in the information they provided.

There's really very little background information about the individuals who provided information to Paul---the household of Chloe, Stephanus, Fortunatus, Achaicus, and Apollos. We're not sure if they communicated or even knew one another. But, Paul knew and trusted them, and must have found resonance in what they told him about the church at Corinth. That's another trip wire for us today. There's an abundance of information and often the many sources are at odds. So, knowing and trusting our sources is one thing. Finding unity is information that we use in asking decisions is another of great importance. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this kind of agreement---"I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1: 10).

3. The information Paul received resonated with his personal faith.

The Epistle of First Corinthians resounds with the centrality of Christ and Paul's total submission to him. He wrote to them out of his deep reverence for Christ and belief in the church being the Body of Christ. The information he received from his colleagues and friends reminded Paul that the Corinthians had departed from the Christian convictions that had been instilled in them. The lesson is clear: our decision making systems must affirm our faith.

It's the first step in bringing our personal heart to the mind games that dominate so much of life. We must learn the discipline of biblically measuring the gigabytes of information we receive before making an important decision.

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