“The moment that we believe we have a choice, there is hope. We are no longer playing the role of victim — we are taking responsibility.” ~Julie Freedman Smith and Gail Bell, Parenting Power
When children are young, we give them freedom in choosing things: what color shirt they will wear, how much food they will eat, whether they will spend the night at their friend’s house. There are boundaries that we put into place to protect them, so that whatever they choose in their limited freedom, they will remain safe. As they grow older, their choices continue to come with boundaries provided by their schools and eventually by laws. Choices are waiting for us all the time, not just at the fork in the road. Some of our choices are simply a matter of the choosing the better of a few good choices or the lesser of two evils, while other choices might be between legal and illegal, ethical and unethical. What about when we (or someone else) feel we have no choice, when we feel that we are victims? Smith and Bell said, with choice there is hope. We must ask ourselves, then, without choice, where is the hope everyone should have?
The hurricane was coming in, and people weren’t leaving their homes, despite warnings to evacuate. They made a choice to stay, right? What I’ve learned in my reading is that many people don’t leave (many kinds of circumstances) because they see no way out and nowhere to go–they believe they have no choice. No choice, no hope. Perhaps we should ask ourselves, Could I offer someone a way to see their options, could I offer them hope? Is it our responsibility to help another when they cannot see? It is our choice and is a part of everything we experience.
I don’t know about you, but my thoughts sometimes happen without my even considering that I could choose to think differently. We have choice in our thoughts. Maybe your child is late coming home or your parent isn’t answering the phone. Where do your thoughts take you? If I don’t pay attention, my thoughts can quickly go to thinking that my child has been in an accident or my parent has fallen and can’t get to the phone. The responsibility to make choices extends to our thinking, not just our actions.
Choice is a gift that we allow people to take from us by trying to convince us that we must believe what they think is true, but the gift of being able to choose what to think and believe is what offers us hope. Having a choice in how we behave is a powerful gift that others try to take from us by convincing us to do what they’re doing. When someone feels they have no choice (when someone is using perceived power to hold them in check) they are left feeling they have no hope. We on the outside have the power, and perhaps responsibility, to step in and help them see that in reality they always have a choice.
- To stay or to go
- To go left or to go right
- To speak kind words about someone or to gossip untruth
- To follow the teachings of this faith, that faith, or no faith
- To stay up late or to go to bed early
- To give in to fearful thoughts or to recognize what is within and outside of our control
Choices are all around us. They are a part of everything we do and define who we are. When you come to the fork in the road, choose wisely. Choose your thoughts, choose your actions, and choose to help someone see their choices when they can’t see beyond their own fears. Our choices define us.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ― Nelson Mandela