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Thought for the Day - David Palmer

In our personal and working life we make many decisions, Deacon David Palmer Catholic Chaplain, reflects on what we use to guide us.



In life we are often faced with difficult decisions. What can help us? I'm Deacon David and it's my privilege to share a thought with you today.

Some years ago there was a major debate in the Accountancy profession about whether Accounting Standards should be "Rules based" or Principles based". I wrote in a letter in the Financial Times that this was not a new problem; but it did have a simple answer. As St Paul wrote to the people living in Corinth 2,000 years ago "The letter of the law kills; the Spirit brings life."

I was reminded of this recently when I sympathised with those in Government trying to decide who gets the vaccine first; or whether easing lockdown to improve the economy was worth the risk of the extra deaths which might result.

As Human Beings we need rules: which side of the road to drive on; how long an exam lasts; what age we can vote, etc. But many decisions are not clear cut. They involve hard choices, balancing factors that even I as an Accountant cannot put a value on. What should guide me? The Bible is great, and is a best selling, even if underused, anthology of authoritative papers covering all aspects of business and social life; but as St Paul points out - it has to be interpreted.

I have found that a useful approach is to imagine that if the facts, including the basis of my decision were made public; would I feel proud or ashamed? In the 1930's the courts used to consider the likely views of the hypothetical "Man on the Clapham omnibus". Now it's probably the views of those on social media. The only trouble is that those views can be dominated by those who shout loudest or most often. We cannot rely on "public opinion" alone. The public elected Hitler.

Whether you believe in God or not, difficult decisions involve considering what is right and that may involve considering the impact on others, not just ourselves. The right decision may involve self sacrifice. People may be at home looking at a website, rather than on the Clapham omnibus; but pure motives, even if subsequent events show them to have been in error, will always be defensible. The Nuremberg defence of "I was only following orders." will not. Rules are there to help apply principles, not replace them.

Good decisions have to come from the heart - and a heart that holds the good of all as paramount. For me believing that a loving God is my only real judge helps me when I have to make difficult choices. I would hope that it may help you too.

May the grace of God guide you, and be with you and those you love throughout the year ahead.