The one-talent man has been haunting me for years. You know the one – in Jesus’ famous parable of the talents, an employer gave 3 of his workers varying numbers of talents (money) while he left town. They were to make good use of the money so he would return to earnings. Two of the men invested and doubled what they were given, but the last man was afraid. He didn’t not want to risk losing his master’s money, so he buried it in the ground. His master was furious upon his return because the servant had wasted the chance to earn dividends and returned only the original amount. (Matthew 25:14-30) 

I know this “one talent man” so well. He is me. I am a risk-averse rule follower by nature. All of my life, I have tried to stick to the rules, avoid trouble, and be good. Every decision has weighed whether the possible outcome is worth the risk of participating – completing constant risk assessments in my head. I always want to make decisions that avoid trouble. I don’t want to risk shame or error.

The other side of the coin

What I failed to see for so long was that there is also risk in the opposite direction. The risk was never just that I would do or say too much. There is also the risk of not taking action when I should — of living my whole life under a basket because I am afraid of burning something with my candle.

This has led to a lot of inaction: I worried about doing or saying the wrong thing, which led me to doing or saying nothing. When we err on the side of caution, we are making a risk assessment. But who or what am I trying to protect with my caution? Is it my integrity….or my comfort?

Course Correction

It’s been a long road to try and course correct this tendency in recent years. I still find myself overthinking and second-guessing so many decisions. The most helpful mental shift I’ve found is to completely change the question when evaluating decisions.

The main priority is no longer to minimize the risk of doing something wrong. My goal is to try and look at people and situations through the eyes of Jesus, to model my life after the words he taught, and to be a perpetual learner. The question is no longer, “What if I get this wrong?” but instead “Which choice leads me closer to Christ?”