There is a great tension in every human soul between what happens to us and how we respond.
The truth is this: I am not the things that happen to my (stimulus), nor I am the reaction that happens on the other end of the stimulus (my emotions, what I do, etc.). The real heart of a human being, the real essence of who I am is in between the two.
I am The Chooser. Standing between what happens to me and what happens next is my ability to decide. The power of my choices.
The Bad News
The bad news about being the chooser is that I have to take responsibility for my choices. I cannot control the things that happen to me – such as getting fired from a job or being in an abusive relationship. I cannot even control if I get a raise at work or get the approval of others. But these things affect me. To pretend otherwise is just a denial of reality. So, there are things I cannot control and they affect me. But what happens next is up to me. If I am in an abusive relationship, I should get out of it. If I get fired, I have to take responsibility for my part in it and try to be better.
If we don’t take responsibility, our problems tend to follow us around. They are the problem. They are the issue. I have been here before, swearing off all women or refusing to engage in politics. People too often put themselves in a pattern of dependency and then complain that they are shackled.
One of the few things I can control is my choices. And I can choose how to respond to the experiences I am faced with. I can also choose to focus on my own part to play when circumstances or relationships don’t work out. Instead of blaming everyone and everything else in order to feel justified, reinforced, and stagnant, I can learn, grow, evaluate.
I read a book recently that said nobody can break your trust if you don’t give it to them. It was a line from Gandhi (or a paraphrase of it).
The reason this is bad news is because we have to take ownership of our part of the mess of the world. We have to focus in rather than out when something goes awry. This is hard. But taking ownership of where we are is the only way to change where we are going.
The Good News
And that is the good news. An awareness and focus on my own agency allows me to properly stand between the circumstances I encounter and the reactions that follow.
I can choose the reaction based on a number of things. I can choose based on defensiveness and blame, trying to make sure I cast myself as hero and others as villain. I can choose based on the cultural expectations, the preference of my friends or parents, the path I think leads to affirmation, or the path that leads to the least amount of pain.
Or, I can choose based on my values. I can dig deep down, silence the noise, see through the superficiality, and make decisions based on the truth. The real truth. Deep, meaningful truth. The power and responsibility to stand in those gaps and make those choices for my own life is up to me.