Wednesday, January 13, 2021

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: We Can Choose

 

WE CAN CHOOSE

 

"There is a tendency among many shallow thinkers of our day to teach that every human act is a reflex, over which we do not exercise human control. They would rate a generous deed as no more praiseworthy than a wink, a crime as no more voluntary than a sneeze.  Such a philosophy undercuts all human dignity.  All of us have the power of choice in action at every moment of our lives.”  Fulton J. Sheen 

 

 

As we travel our life journey, we make choices, and then we live with the consequences of those choices. “Between stimulus and response there is a space.  In that space is our power to choose our response.  In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor E. Frankl.

Life does not consist of only a few major “left turn or right turn” decisions, but of millions of judgments. Some of those choices are seemingly of little significance, while others are clearly enormous. But small or large, each decision leads on to the next and the next after that. In The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost brilliantly captured the principle that “way leads on to way” and our available options down the road are defined in sizeable measure by our previous decisions.  

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

And yet, while we are not likely to backtrack and return to where the “roads diverged in a yellow wood,” I rejoice in the fact that we CAN go back — if we so choose — and from there choose a different path. Previous choices are direction, but they are NOT destiny. Previous choices have consequences, but those consequences are NOT immutable. Just as we have the power to choose, we have the power to CHOOSE AGAIN and to CHOOSE DIFFERENTLY. We can repent, rebuild, return to love, make restitution, and move on.

In addition, we have the power to create or reimagine different options that are not naturally presented to us. In other words, using Robert Frost’s metaphor, we are free not only to choose one road or another, but we are also free to forge our own path, to push cross-country through the woods where no road previously existed. Sometimes the “road less traveled by” is not a road at all, but merely a break in the underbrush or a game trail that leads to . . . who knows where.

Where it inevitably leads, from my own experience, is to some grand adventure. And as Helen Keller put it, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

The power to take responsibility for our choices and the resulting consequences — Stephen R. Covey calls it being “response-able” — is to me the essence of being alive, fully alive. I am grateful to understand that I am free to act and not merely to be acted upon. It is THAT knowledge that has made all the difference in my life.