How to Make Moral Decisions
by Joanne Heaney-Hunter
Jeanne and Joe are engaged and will be married next year. They both have been working for several years, and are dedicated to their jobs. They are interested in both building their careers and their family life. They have agreed that their work outside the home should be valued equally, even after they have children.
Recently, Jeanne received exciting news. She was offered a major promotion, a job that would give her more visibility in her company and give them extra money to help pay for wedding expenses, furniture, and other necessities for their new apartment. The job offer sounds promising; Jeanne loves a challenge and considers herself up to the task of taking on significant new responsibilities. The new position, however, involves some potential drawbacks:
There would be considerable overtime associated with it. Her predecessor told her that he used to work at least 55 hours per week. Because this job is salaried rather than hourly, he did not receive overtime pay. In reality, the large increase in pay is reduced by the fact that she won’t get extra money for overtime.
The position involves one to two full weeks of travel per month.
How do Jeanne and Joe make a good decision about whether or not Jeanne should accept the position?
Sharing values and trying to discern God’s will when making moral decisions are critical elements in any Christian marriage. Over the course of a lifetime, couples make moral decisions on major life choices such as Jeanne and Joe face plus other more daily decisions about life style, use of time, talent, and money, and relationships with family and friends. Making a moral decision about an issue involves engaging in a process of prayerful reflection, conversation, and evaluation before reaching a conclusion.
People of faith should consider the following steps:
- Begin by opening your heart and mind to God in prayer. Ask for the grace to follow God’s will.
- Gather information to make a well-informed decision. Take advantage of articles, websites, and other resources. What does Church teaching say?
- Consult trusted advisors to gain clarity about the issue. Family members and friends can be sounding boards, but remember that in challenging situations, it might be difficult for them to maintain objectivity Parish staff or counselors might be able to assist if a situation is particularly difficult.
- If a decision involves both partners, make the decision together. It is crucial to come to consensus about decisions affecting both of you.
- Be open to reevaluate the decision after a time.
Keeping these steps in mind, how should Jeanne and Joe proceed?
They should celebrate Jeanne’s accomplishments. She has been recognized for her talent and dedication to her job. Whether or not she takes the promotion, both Jeanne and Joe should enjoy her recognition.
As people of faith, Jeanne and Joe should take time to pray for help in making this important decision. They might ask God to help them appreciate the positive and negative elements of this opportunity.
Jeanne and Joe must decide whether or not the new job will be good for Jeanne as a person and both of them as a couple. One way to do that is to write down the pros and cons of the situation. Ask the following questions: What impact will the changing responsibilities have on their relationship? For example, will considerable overtime have a negative impact on their time together? Is this impact worth the sacrifice? How much more money will she actually make when she moves from an hourly position to a salaried position? How do they feel about so much business travel? What is the impact when a couple is trying to establish their marriage and maintain a difficult travel schedule?
If Jeanne and Joe can’t come to agreement about the decision, they should consider getting help. If they are not already connected with their local parish, they will find helpful people there.
Having prayed and carefully weighed the pros and cons, they need to make the best decision they can. Both Jeanne and Joe must be willing to accept the decision, and must agree not to blame or point fingers if it doesn’t work out exactly as they thought it would.
Finally, Jeanne and Joe should agree to reevaluate the decision at a future date. In light of their experience, they should ask: Was this a good decision? Should they rethink it and begin the decision making process again? Agreeing to a reevaluation time helps keep the lines of communication open, and helps couples to understand that they do not have to be locked into a decision forever.
Remember, in many decisions, there is no crystal clear correct choice. Making a moral decision involves weighing options and arriving at the best solution possible at the time. However, when a couple agrees on basic life and faith values, and is willing to engage in a process of moral decision making, they can be confident about their choice, whatever it is.