Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Choices Have Consequences...

"I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime".

- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Every day, every one of us makes choices.

How we live our lives, where we live our lives, who we share our lives with and how we support ourselves. Big decisions. What to eat for lunch, whether to return a call, how we spend our free time or what to wear to our next meeting. Small decisions.

Every choice has consequences. Some effect us and some effect others. Do we always make the right choice? Hell, no. Do we always weigh all of the mitigating factors when we make a choice? Of course not, we're human.

We make choices and, right or wrong, we need to live with the consequences.

"Actions have consequences...first rule of life. And the second rule is this - you are the only one responsible for your own actions".

- Holly Lisle, Fire In the Mist, 1992
Every choice is influenced by many factors. Obligations, responsibilities, love, lust, joy, hate, sorrow, fear, grief, depression, money. Every decision a person makes has a massive number of effects on our lives and the lives of many others. Do we please ourselves or do we please others? Can we please both? Certainly, we can't please everyone.

I think the simplest choices are the ones we make based on our own wants and needs. The selfish decisions. But once you start including the influences of the other factors like the wants and needs of children, spouses, family, friends, employers and financial obligations and all of the multitude of other "things" that in today's society we are bombarded with, then decisions become anything but simple.

Is a choice that benefits us and hurts others a right choice? Is a choice that benefits others and hurts us a wrong choice? Are the right choices only the ones that do no harm? Are there really any choices that do NO harm?

Some choices have immediate results and some decisions we only come to regret or applaud after months or years. So when do we decide that it is the time to judge a decision? Who decides what the right choice is? Or the wrong choice is? Who will be the judge? The answer,in all honesty, is probably everyone whether you want them to or not and, they do so, ALL of the time.

"It is well, when judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality".

- Arnold Bennett
Who among us is really fit to judge the validity of another's choice? WE don't have to live with the results of those choices. The truth, in my opinion, is that the only one qualified to judge the choices we make is, in fact, ourselves. The person making the choice is the only one who knows all of the factors that were considered (or discounted) while making the choice. We are the ones that must live with the consequences of our decisions. We are the ones that must look into the mirror each morning and ask ourselves "Can I live with the choices that I have made?".

On the surface, a woman deciding to leave an abusive husband may seem like a no- brainer. But, if leaving him causes a great deal of hardship for her children, then the decision is less clear cut. She needs to weigh the benefits of the decision against the burden of bearing the consequences. After all, what harm is she already doing to her children by staying and allowing him to continue to abuse her? Her choice may simply be the choice of the lesser evil.

Consider the mother that continues to support her child well into their forties. Said child has never held down a job to support themselves, has proven time and time again that they will steal and lie and endanger the lives of innocents by driving drunk. Do we feel sorry for her child, who may have to spend time in prison? "No, of course not" we say. "He must hopefully learn that when you break the law and make bad choices that there is a price to pay". "You choose poorly and you earn the punishment". His choice. His consequence.

And what about the mother? She is financially destitute and has had untold hardships caused by this wayward child. She breaks no laws and only loves her child despite their actions. When she complains about the hardships in her life that she must endure and asks for sympathy, financial support and emotional support. Do we provide it? Or, like the child (child?) she protects do we harden our hearts and say "you must realize the consequences of your actions". She chose to allow him into her home to rob her blind. She chose not to press charges when he stole her car and wrote it off. The hardships that she is enduring are a direct result of the choices that she has made. Is her choice any better than his? Are his choices a result of hers? Do either of them have a right to complain about the results of their choices?

Finally, consider the woman who has sacrificed her dreams for a financially secure home for her children. She has a job that pays her bills. She lives in a decent neighborhood. She takes her children to soccer practice. She encourages her children to pursue their dreams and supports them to achieve them. She still dreams, but with each year that passes the fulfillment of her own dreams becomes less likely. Is her choice more noble than any of the others? Does SHE have the right to complain and rage against the injustice of the world or do we likewise say to her "you are responsible for your own choices". "You must bear the consequences of those decisions". At some point she must have made the conscience decision that the sacrifice of her dreams was a worthwhile price to pay for a secure future for her children. Her choice. Not your choice or my choice. Her choice. Is it the right choice? Maybe, for her, it is.

Even if our choices cause us to endure hardships, the benefits of those choices may very well be worth the hardships, to the one making the decision. We don't need to understand it. We just need to respect it.

"Honor isn't about making the right choices. It's about dealing with the consequences".

- Midori Koto

In my opinion, if a person bears the burden of their choices with dignity and grace, then they are deserving of our respect and admiration. No matter what choices they have made. If we choose to judge them in any manner, then they shouldn't be judged for the validity of their choice but for their ability to live with the results.

All that any of us can hope for is the freedom to make our own choices, the wisdom to learn from our experiences and for people in our lives, who love us enough, to respect our decisions.

"I am blessed with the freedom to make my own choices. I understand that it is my responsibility to bear the consequences of those decisions. And I respect that you, have the right to refuse to listen to, or sympathize with, any complaints I may have about the results of those decisions".

- Martini Goddess


Jules said...

Great post babe..(have to wonder if you're talking to me here). You're right of course, unfortunately most of us don't look at the consequences of our choices until long after the fact. It's the learning from those choices the the effects on other that make all the difference.

At the end of the day I think we tend to stumble blindly. Sure, we may consider certain significant life choices, you've given some dramatic ones in your post, but none of us can see the long term effects of those choices.

I guess at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself whether or not you'd go back and do it again the same way without regrets.


Martini Goddess said...

Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.

I know people don't always make the right choices. I know I don't. But I reserve the right to decide myself if my choice was right or wrong.

You would think that people would learn something from the choices that they have made that have had disastrous results. And I get frustrated when people continue to make the same choices again and again with the same unfortunate results and them complain that life is unfair. They don't take any responsibility for the results of their choices and they can't understand why the world is punishing them.

I can't make them make different choices and I have no desire to do so. I know how I would react if someone tried to force me into a decision. I can't mitigate the consequences of their decisions. And I'm tired of trying.

I will take responsibility for any bonehead decision that I make. I will teach my child to take responsibility for his own bad choices. But I refuse to listen, any longer, to people who blame anyone and everyone for their circumstances, whine about the unfairness of life and do absolutely nothing to effect a change that might acctually improve it.

PS - You've never been one to shirk your responsibilities and taking action to effect change certainly isn't something that your afraid to do. This wasn't about you, even though in retrospect I can see how you might think some aspects might apply.

I'm just glad you enjoyed my quiet contemplation and navel gazing.

Jules said...

Lol..I love your blog, it's like chatting on the deck with a cup of tea or something.

And yes, people who continually run into the same walls and complain about it, instead of opening their eyes and seeing "oh look, that's a brick wall, that might hurt" are rather frustrating. I used to be married to one.

The best example of all of this of course is the wonder that is your kid. He DOES look out for the consequences of his choices and actions, and having that in front of you daily must give you some inspiration :)

Martini Goddess said...

I must admit the child does give me hope for the next generation.

I'm not sure what I did to deserve him but I am eternally grateful to the powers that be for making him a part of my life.

He inspires me to be a better person, simply because I never want to see the disappointment in his eyes when he realizes that I too make bad choices.

The funny thing is...I know he would love me despite my flaws or even because of them. And that just makes me all the more determined to carefully consider each choice that I make and the impact that it may have.

Dave said...