Paralysed by Choice

A long time ago I started to write a book.  By started I mean that I wrote down a couple of chapter titles and a few thoughts.  The title of one of the chapters was “Paralysed By Choice – the paradox of post-modern youth”.  Now I wish I’d written it.  But because I didn’t I can recommend Barry Schwartz brilliant TED talk on the same topic.

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Choice fascinates me.  In lots of ways I like choice.  At least I think I do.  I have the choice to spend my evenings doing lots of different things, so why do I spend them watching House or working or nothing much.

I think the church suffers badly from choice overload.  It seems that in places where there is one flavour of church that the church does ok.  People go.  They don’t question if it could be better.  They commit to making the most of it.  Is that our problem?  Too much choice?  And does that choice raise our expectation?  I think it does.  And I’m not sure that’s always a good thing.

Calvin's C

Maybe Calvin has it right.  Lower expectations lead to less disappointment.  But it also stops us wondering what might have been.  I loved the cartoon in Schwartz’s talk showing the guy at work thinking about golf, when he’s playing golf thinking about his wife and when he’s making love to his wife he’s thinking about work.

There is something very important about being present.  Being in the moment.  Not thinking about what you could have won (in a Bullseye fashion!).  That doesn’t mean settling.  It means committing.

Is that the price we pay?  More choice = less committment?  I think it might be, and I’m not sure the choice is worth it.

2 thoughts on “Paralysed by Choice”

  1. The exception to what you are saying is surely the USA? With no “one church” or state church as we have in so many countries in Europe there has flourished in the US extraordinary choice, more than we have in the UK. That variety and the often attendant entrepreneurial spirit within the thriving churches (a bit of survival of the fittest going on, Darwin would be so proud!) does seem to build commitment in church members, albeit it also allows for fluid transfer of members and less denominational attachment. I think the reality is somewhat more complicated than your depiction. I think there are many, many more pressing reasons why folks are not engaging with church communities than simply that there is too much choice.My tuppence worth (having spent over 3 weeks in the US this summer!!).

  2. I think you right about there being more resons than too much choice Pete but would you say the other reasons are?  One of the things I find iteresting about growing churches is that they tend to be more conservative in their theology which would again perhaps give weight to ‘too much choice’ being an issue people find hard to deal with.  It’s a common criticism that people ‘don’t want to think’ although I’d be more inclinde to say that they have been robbed of the tools to allow theological reflection.  Any thoughts?

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