A young couple was having an intense marital dispute and went to the rabbi for mediation. The rabbi listened first to the wife, who expressed her resentment towards her husband for his annoying behavior. The rabbi listened empathetically, nodded his head, and said, “You are right.”

“Wait a second—you’ve got to listen to my side as well!” the husband interjected. He then proceeded to explain to the rabbi what his wife had done to irritate him. The rabbi listened emphatically, nodded, and said, “You are right.”

Perhaps a little indecision in the beginning can be beneficial at timesThe rabbi’s wife, who had been listening to the entire conversation from the next room, called her husband aside and said to him, “My dear husband, this couple came here for help in settling their dispute. You can’t agree with both of them.”

“You’re so right,” the poor rabbi responded.

Being decisive can be very challenging, especially when there seems to be validity to more than one side of an argument. Perhaps a little indecision in the beginning can be beneficial at times, allowing us to explore our options with an open mind. On the other hand, lack of clarity can slow down, if not stunt, our development. Indecisiveness can eventually erode a person’s sense of power and self-confidence.

There is a fascinating play-out of this psychological dynamic in this week’s haftorah. Elijah the Prophet was desperate to dissuade an element of Jews from worshipping idols. In the ultimate showdown between the G‑d of Elijah and the pagan cult involving the worship of the Baal, he successfully proved to them that the Jewish G‑d was omnipotent, while the Baal was only a figment of their imagination.

Moments before the final showdown between the altar of G‑d and the altar of the Baal, Elijah made the following stirring proclamation: “How long will you dance between two options?!”

Why would Elijah criticize them for being indecisive? That didn’t seem to be the point. Why not say, “How long will you continue to worship false gods? Stop being ridiculous!” True, many of the Jews were still “dancing between the two options”—still believing in G‑d while buying into the pagan cult—but why did Elijah not focus his criticism on their idolatry?

Why did Elijah feel that the people who were most in need of his call were the ones who were indecisive?

Here’s what makes religious indecision so challenging: a person who has a foot on each side of the fence, and never taken a leap of faith in either direction, is less likely to recognize when he or she has veered in the wrong direction. It’s difficult to feel accountable and even remorseful for the mistakes that you’ve never really made. And feeling accountable can be very healing; it’s that emotional rock bottom that you hit when you realize that you’ve bought into a false paradigm and sacrificed your integrity for it that allows you to rebound into a sweeping turnaround. This is the holy process that G‑d calls teshuvah, return. It is the sensation of distance from truth that propels you towards truth with great velocity.

But when you’ve not made any strong moral decisions, you lose out on the opportunity to be accountable for your choices.

Elijah urged them to have the confidence to let go of their moral ambiguityAnd there’s another reason that dancing on both sides of the fence can be so risky. The person who is partially committed to G‑d can impact his environment more so than the guy who’s completely heretical, because we’re mostly influenced by those with whom we identify. When someone who is disenfranchised from G‑d does something wrong, well, that makes sense. But someone who is dancing on both sides of the fence—he doesn’t fit into any box, and everyone identifies with him—is much more influential, and others are more easily swayed by his choices.

And so Elijah spoke out to those in the most precarious spiritual space—the dancers—and called them back home. He urged them to have the confidence to let go of their moral ambiguity, the confidence to listen to the quiet voice of their souls.

Adapted from the talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.