Making tough decisions

When is "No" the more compassionate answer?

I originally wrote this article about making tough decisions several years ago. It seems appropriate to post it again as decisions seem even bigger and the ramifications even greater. Irene

We are all now and then faced with making tough decisions. Recently I was challenged to make a  decision that seriously affected not only myself but someone else.  Deciding to say “no” would be good for me but not for the other person. A “yes” might be good for me but, then again, in the long run, might not. It would possibly be good for the other person. I couldn’t see it clearly and wrestled with it for a few days.  I spent time in meditation and  I tried to look at it from all sides.

Making tough decisions

I began to realize that  I was operating from “ought to” and “should” and was feeling guilty for potentially letting someone dmaking tough decisionsown. A decision based on guilt is often not the best decision for anyone. So I tried to take the guilt out of the equation and look at it again. Having been in administration for years, I know and use the decision making process. I had gone through the steps and still felt stymied. 

Best and highest good?

Then I asked the simple question: “Is this for my best and highest good?” The clear answer was “no.”  I asked the next question “Is this for the other’s best and highest good?” and the answer wasn’t so clear. It was, “I don’t know.”

What I do know is that I am the only one who can make decisions for me. I have to be an advocate for me because I am responsible for the decisions I make and the actions I take. No one else is or can be. Nor am I responsible for anyone else’s decisions and actions. When it comes to making tough decisions, this still applies.

A choice between selfishness and compassion?

The dilemma for me involves the decision that seems to be a choice between selfishness and compassion. When is it o.k. to take care of me first? How do I know when it’s all right to say, “I just can’t do that right now”?  Will I know when it’s o.k. to say “no?”

It is not an easy question. There is not an easy answer.

In the Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom, he states:

“If you think only of yourself, if you forget the rights and well-being of others, or, worse still, if you exploit others, ultimately you will lose. You will have no friends who will show concern for your well-being. Moreover, if a tragedy befalls you, instead of feeling concerned, others might even secretly rejoice.

By contrast, if an individual is compassionate and altruistic, and has the interests of others in mind, then irrespective of whether that person knows a lot of people, wherever that person moves, he or she will immediately make friends. And when that person faces a tragedy, there will be plenty of people who will come to help.”

We all faced with making tough decisions now and then—decisions that are complex and involve others—decisions that involve the heart as well as the head. Sometimes “no” is the more compassionate answer.

I have peace knowing that I looked at all sides. I know I was making the best possible decision I know to make at this time with the awareness I have right now.  If the situation changes and/or my awareness changes I can make another decision.

Life is filled with choices, decisions, uncertainties, and no guarantees. The best we can do sometimes feels like it is not enough. Looking at “the big picture” I know that I have an attitude of compassion for others and at times the decision has to be made to take care of me, too.

Peace lets me know it was a good decision.



  1. Debbie @ Happy Maker says

    You stated it very good when you say, ” Peace lets me know it was a good decision.” If you can’t say that to yourself then you need to think ablut it a little longer before makeing a decision. Great post

  2. Cailen says

    Great quote from the Dalai Lama! It’s so easy to let our ego get involved when making decisions and therefore approach the decision making process from a superficial level. When we step back and really ask our inner guide what is best, the answer is almost always clear.

    Thanks for reminding us how to tackle tough decisions.
    writer, blogger, author

  3. Beth says

    Great post about making decision.. I am now facing the decision that is very important for my futher life… The situation is :choosing between two person i really care about a lot. The decision of creating my own family or taking care about my real one – mum.. I’ve been living in a foreign country during my studies and stayed there afterwards as I got to know the person i started to love.. the happiness i feel while staying with my beloved one is although ‘stalked’ with the sence of guilt…and sadness as being away from my mum… Now i got a very good work proposal in my homeland …and i started considering the coming back.. the problem is that i love these two people a lot and i dont want any one of them to get hurt… the correct decision seems to go back home… but i feel very bad about my loved one…as if i leave our relationship ends. He doesnt have the possibility to live in my country as he doesnt know the language… and he doesnt want to keep a distant relationship while i am away… so its here or there…. i meditate a lot..but its very difficult to decide which decision is the right one …even if i consider only the wellness of others…

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