Wise sayings stick in my mind, some from when I was young: “Measure twice, cut once” was my father’s advice when addressing a piece of lumber with a saw. STOP/LOOK/LISTEN was emblazoned on all railroad crossings, especially those without gates and flashing lights. “Look both ways before crossing the road” was my parents’ advice about walking to school. (When I started driving, those words later morphed into “Look both ways twice before turning.”) When I became an adult, faced with uncertainties, the maxim “Before you decide, sleep on it” was always helpful when it came to major decisions.
Nowadays this behavior seems more and more valuable. Each of these maxims reminds me about the value of double-checking my perceptions and choices. At first this approach bothered me. I was used to making judgements based on rapid assessments of situations, people or emotions. I trusted my senses implicitly, and knew that my intuitive skills would usually yield satisfying outcomes. Why couldn’t that continue as I grew older?
Then I noticed the constant presence of the wavy lines that signal macular degeneration. Folks around me kept telling me that I ought to get my hearing checked. I got snookered by a door-to-door scammer. Those experiences were the impetus for a change towards a slower pace of life that now steers me away from knee-jerk reactions and towards taking time to verify matters. Consistent research about false memories, self-deception and other cognitive biases supports this attitude adjustment.
The benefits of double-and-triple-checking are obvious, especially when it comes to matters of safety. I am a more careful driver, I use kitchen utensils and power tools much more deliberately and I watch more carefully where I step and what I touch. I even read the directions on labels!
It has occurred to me that this way of living also extends into the rest of my life. I don’t automatically trust my first impressions of someone who is new, thus not rushing to judgement about that person’s character. In conversations, I sometimes ask others to repeat what they’ve said, so that I more fully understand what they mean. When reading the Bible, I might go back over a passage a couple of times before moving to the following verses. When I’m corrected or rebuked, I try to shut off my self-defensive voice before immediately responding. When anxiety threatens my well-being, I try not to act on that impulse too quickly. And when speaking or writing, I spend a lot more time choosing just the right words from among those that come to mind right away.
It might seem that an always-double-checking approach to life takes more time. But then I think about all the times I’ve jumped to conclusions—and been wrong—or made a quick decision based only on momentary emotions. I realize that, more often than not, I have eventually spent considerable time dealing with the consequences of that too-quick way of living.
I write about this matter with some gratitude about being an older adult. Now that I’m not working for a living, I have the time to live with “twice is nice” as a comfortable guidance for most parts of my day. I have reasons and resources for deliberation and discernment before taking action. I can hold possible decisions up next to the light of Scripture. Slowed down in this way, I’m not only safer but also more assured that my relationships are richer and my decisions wiser.
And I can look for new aphorisms—“Twice is nice” needs some work, right?