The Choices We Make
When I was young, I would sometimes become upset over something a friend said or did that I didn’t like. “They make me so mad!” was usually my response to my mother. I’m sure many parents would agree that this is typical of young kids. During those times, my mother in her wisdom would say: “Jordan, no one can make you do anything. You can choose how you act no matter what anyone says or does.” I really did not appreciate that at the time. I wanted to justify my anger or hurt feelings, but what my mom said gave me no excuse for bad behavior. In essence, she was teaching me about my freedom to choose.
Every day, each one of us make choices. Every choice we make is tied to a consequence. Some consequences may be good, some may be minuscule, and others might be quite serious. We can always choose what course of action we take, but more often than not, we cannot choose what consequence we will receive for our actions. We can only choose the consequence for our actions when we make the choice that is tied to the consequence that we want. For example, if I want to get a good grade in a class (something I would view as a positive consequence), I need to choose to put in the time and effort to get the good grade. If I want to get a good job, I need to work hard, sell myself well, and be persistent.
One of the truths about our humanity is that more often than not we believe that if something bad happens to us, it is not our fault. Or maybe not necessarily that it’s our fault, but that our actions were justified. The reality is that our actions are really the only things that we can control in this life. We can often control the outcome of a situation by controlling our words and our actions. When we cannot control the outcome, we can certainly control how we react in that situation. Let me give an example.
I recently had an experience that helped me to continue to learn this principle. A while ago, I found myself in a situation that was less than desirable, and there wasn’t much that I could do to control the outcome. In my mind, there was no viable way to get what I wanted. Rather than accepting my circumstances, moving on, and choosing not to be offended or annoyed, I chose to stew on my negative emotions and let them fester.
Things happened that I didn’t like, but no one forced me to be unhappy; I believe that happiness is a choice. Unfortunately, I didn’t make that choice. I was grumpy and short with everyone around me, and to be honest, I chose not to care about my behavior. I felt that I was entitled to my behavior because of what had happened. As I was thinking about my situation, the words of my mother came into my mind that I should not act poorly just because things don’t go my way. I should have acted with grace and with class, but I didn’t. And I certainly regretted it.
I’m certain that most of us will have experiences similar to the one I just described. And sadly, we can’t always choose the higher path because we are flawed. We’re going to have those times where we are so frustrated and mad at other people or mad at the world. But I believe we still need to try and control our reactions to situations and to our own emotions.