We Have Choices

(For Em, who embodies this idea).

My wife and I were a bit overwhelmed this morning by all of the news and people’s responses to it.  Terrorism in Belgium, elections in America,  Americans talking to Cubans, Americans talking about Americans talking to Cubans. When it gets like this, I tend to fall back into “what can I do?” in order to feel in control again. “What can’t I do?” is too long a list and it only makes me depressed.  What I can do is make choices. That’s about it, day to day, but that’s a lot.

When I was a kid, we used to say that the thing that separates us from animals was that we had brains — consciousness, and morality, and all the things that go with it. I now have friends who like animals more than they like human beings, because human beings seem to choose to hurt them, while animals do not. We have choices to hurt others and choices to not hurt others. I am continually saddened by people’s choices to hurt others and then wonder why things are bad — to their spouses, to their children, to people they don’t even know, with their words or their bodies or the actions. I think they are responsible for those choices.  The atmosphere we live in right now has people thinking that they can’t help themselves, that’s who they are. Raw emotion is all fine and dandy, but it doesn’t help. We seem to want to devolve.  We seems to want to act like animals — even more than animals do.

When the Constitution says that we have “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, that is just the beginning. Those are the nouns of life, the ingredients of a life, the basics, the givens. What matters is “what kind of a life do we want?” “What do we want to do with our freedom?” “What kind of happiness do we want to pursue?” . It boils down to choices. We have choices. How do I know this? I see the choices people make and I know that I could make them if I wanted to, but I either do or don’t.

…. and now a few words from my heroes and heroines….

From Virginia Satir, systems theorist and therapist : “The problem is not the problem. Coping is the problem.”  We can cope with nearly anything. We make choices to try to cope. Some choices make things worse, some choices make things better.

Also from Satir: “If you can’t come up with at least three choices, you’re not being creative enough”. If we want to stay stuck, one option will do. If we want to make things better, another option has to come out. If two or more people want to fight, two options will suffice. If they want to make things better, there has to be at least a third option. We may need to be creative, but we are soooo capable of doing that. People who want to limit creativity — in any of its forms, like not supporting the arts in schools — cripple us.

From John Lennon: “War is over if you want it”.  I have always loved this quote. There are people out there who think this is way too simplistic. I don’t think so. If we as human beings, don’t pick up a weapon and fight, there will be no war. I am amazed that people think it’s possible to pick up a weapon immediately but doing anything else is either impossible or just too hard. Yet somehow, we consider the people who kill to be heroes and those who don’t to be weak.

From Jesus: What is the greatest commandment? “Love your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. The second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself”, and elsewhere … “this is my new commandment, that you should love one another as I have loved you”.   That first one is almost reasonable, the second one raises the stakes. It’s good to have goals.

From my friend Evelyn: “You see that bottle over there? It’s full of huge Ibuprophen. I get wicked cramps every month. I don’t think that gives me any reason to take it out on anyone else”.  Many people have the same problem.  Some have the problem worse than others. Even they have choices. Also, no kindness is too small. This is not a political choice, it’s not important in the larger world. Most people don’t know she does it/did it. In fact most people don’t know she exists. Nonetheless, it makes the lives of people close to her better than other choices she could make.

From my friend Ron, a decided atheist: “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a pointed stick!”. Ron convinced me (intentionally or not) that there is a third category between persecution and being persecuted. I tell my clients all the time that they can hurt each other, help each other, or at least not poke each other in the eye with a pointed stick.

Even without Jesus, Ron has a definite moral compass.  In fact, he’s a better person than people who “confess Jesus with their lips”, but not their actions. If there’s a judgement day, I’d rather be Ron than them when it happens. I don’t exactly know how Ron makes his choices, but his doing so means that “the right thing” must be obvious, even to people who don’t have a guidebook.  Certainly, his choices are better than those people who misread the guidebook they’ve got. How do I know that? He gets better results for he world than they do.

….back to our regularly scheduled blog…

So with all that, here are some of our choices:

Not helpful                                        Better than a pointed stick                Make things better

Being mean to others                     Not dealing with others                     Giving hugs and kisses

Hitting someone                              Not hitting them                                  Smiling at them

Blaming someone for                     listening to them                                  Helping them out

their circumstances

War                                                        Detente                                                     Peace

Being afraid                                        Knowing you’re afraid                         Being hopeful

And thinking about why


Hating people for who they are   Accepting others reasonably                Loving others

Taking out your stuff on others   Knowing you could, but not doing it  Working your stuff


Be unjust                                              Don’t be unjust                                           Be active for justice

Destroy the earth                             Stop hurting the earth                               Fix the earth

Choose money over people            Like them both, choose people              Love people only

…. and about politics…

Forget the parties, forget the inuendos, forget the categories. Forget the promises. In America, our politicians represent us (or they are supposed to). Vote for people who represent your values. Set the bar high. Have values in the “Not a pointed stick” category or the “Helpful” category. And if you choose to something from the “harmful” category, don’t bitch to me about how your life sucks.












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