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Voices and Choices
by David Truman
Choosing is what free will is for. Maybe that feels like a lot of responsibility, but responsibility is power.
To choose well and wisely is the way to all that is good and Godly. We are Divine children with animal instincts and bodies. Consequently, when it comes to our responses to life, we can choose between the natural or super-natural responses. We can go with animal survivalism, or loving transcendence. We can go with ego, or we can go with spirit. Depending on which side we choose, either we regress to the animal, or we move spiritually forward. Which will it be?
Moments of choice
Many important choices in human life go almost unnoticed, because they are made at the most ordinary times. Two of the most common and spiritually important choices we make are choosing our mood and choosing how to react to something.
The choice of mood. Mood is a compelling force in life. Moods can create outcomes by affecting how we behave, how we interpret events, and what we expect. Fortunately, people can and do decide to change their moods consciously.
Example: A man spends a number of days indulging in a black mood of anger and resentment after getting an unfavorable job review. Then one day he wakes up and says, "Enough of this. I'm going to turn around now" -- and does. At that point, his "fate" shifts -- AS IF by magic. He goes to work and he patiently applies himself to correcting the flaws his supervisor criticized. By the end of the week, his boss notices the changes and warms up to him.
The choice of reaction. Granted, some reactions are almost automatic, and therefore, they seem hard to control. But in most instances, we can and do control our reactions -- if we choose to.
A person may choose to believe that reactivity is entirely involuntary, and can never be controlled. A person may even choose to defend reactive patterns. For example, if someone offends a negatively reactive man, he may defend himself by saying: "She insulted me, so I insulted her back. What was I supposed to do?" His defense suggests that it's totally obvious what any man would do in that situation --since, in his view, every man is egotistical and animalistic. Even so, there is another possibility, a higher place to come from.
The choice for a healthy and constructive response is a choice for the higher, spiritual side of our being. A choice for a negative or destructive reaction is a choice for the lower, egotistical, or animal side of our being.
Example: A boy scout leader on a hike is suffering from a painful blister, and on top of that, is a bit lost. He has a choice of reacting with despair -- becoming irritable and withdrawn -- or of responding constructively and setting a good example for the troop.
Example: A mother returns home to her waiting children after a long shopping trip. Although she is cold, tired, and hungry, the demands of motherhood require her to transcend the temptation to dramatize her discomfort, in order to attentively care for her children's needs.
The choice to respond from spirit rather than react from ego is a choice for higher consciousness. Higher consciousness interrupts the flow of automatic reactions with a momentary pause for due consideration. This pause may completely prevent an automatic ego-reaction, and replace it with a spiritual response.
Hints for Helpers
TIP: When you see a choice point confronting a friend, you can help them choose for spirit with a subtle, well-timed hint. Try opening with a sympathetic comment -- so they know the challenge they face isn't totally lost on you -- and then point the way towards the high road. "I know how tired you are by now, but wouldn't it feel great to you and the other workers to finish the job before we quit?"
How to handle the dark side without suppression or compensation
But what do we DO with the negative feelings we all have? Experience shows that indulging in negativity is counterproductive. But experience also shows that the habit of merely suppressing the negative won't work either.
Many people spend most of their energy trying to avoid this or that, trying to keep from doing this or that, or trying to avoid making this or that mistake. The way off the suppression treadmill is to redirect energy rather than suppress it. When we redirect our energies, our life force is not stopped or suppressed -- it is just channeled in other directions and expressed differently. This is a skill we can develop with practice. The redirection of energy is accomplished by choice. I choose to do this instead of that. I choose to help instead of hinder; I choose to love instead of hate. This is creative, not suppressive.
Compensation is no solution, either. You are compensating when you keep the negative feelings and simply try to counteract their effects by overlaying a positive feeling. An example of compensation is trying to not be hateful by acting loving or polite. Compensation is ineffectual because it's not built on a positive motivation. The negative element is not released, it is only whitewashed over. The effective approach is to choose a positive action instead of -- not in addition to, and not to hide -- a negative response.
The secret of happiness: pay your Do's!
There is a value in self-control, but don'ts don't do anything. It is far more effective to focus most of our energy on the "do's." That way, we live a life that is predominantly affirmative and creative (rather than predominantly negative, or cautious). If you want to live a good life --as opposed to wanting to avoid living a bad life -- you've got to buy it with positive choices and good actions. Pay your "Do's!" and a rich, soul-satisfying life will be yours.
Choice creates destiny and character
Choice is the craft of destiny.
When it comes to human development, nothing just happens. What we call destiny is "caused" or "created" by the overall pattern of our choices. One choice builds on another, contributing to what we call fate, or destiny. We shape our destiny by deciding what we ourselves want to be, and then, in daily life, making many small decisions that support the one larger decision.
Habits result from many single instances of choice. When a person habitually reacts in certain predictable ways we consider these patterns of reaction as aspects of character. Thus we can also say what we know as character is progressively developed by individual choices.
Note that when it comes to choosing who we want to be, it's not a single choice -- it's a series of choices. Mood swings prove that every person is capable of manifesting a wide range of response patterns each day. To be the way we want to be, we must narrow the field to the desirable options -- by choice. For example, to consistently love the way we would like to love, we must reject alternative possibilities and choose love again and again.
No single choice is conclusive. A commitment is a choice made consistently -- over and over again. A million little choices add up to one big choice. Just so, our general state of consciousness -- which is surely something we choose -- represents the cumulative result of all of our decisions, moment by moment, day by day.
The choice between the natural and the "super-natural"
Needless to say, between the two alternatives, the only sensible direction is upward. While defense and offense may be natural forms of reaction, we do have the option to respond super-naturally to the emotional challenges of life. We can respond to injury with forgiveness, we can respond to offenders with compassion, etc. Every time we respond super-naturally, we release fears and resentments instead of accumulating them. That's how we move beyond what presently limits us, and progressively eliminate the reactive tendencies that ruin relationships. Excellent choices!
No force on earth compares to the power of choice
The more we consider the options, the more clearly we see that super-natural response patterns -- forgiveness, compassion, and the like -- provide the only possible way to enjoy ever new life and ever expanding love. Knowing that, we can train ourselves to respond super-naturally, and we can cultivate our love until it becomes beautiful and powerful. Gradually, as we become habituated to higher response patterns, we transcend the animal side.
Wherever we find ourselves, our actions can be viewed from the true, eternal, spiritual perspective. Heavenly standards for appropriate living reflect the essential and eternal realities of God and Good. In that sense, the standards for right livelihood or for good job performance will never change, and there's NO part or position that's any further "off the path" than any other.
Helpful tips for making wise choices
1. Consider the effects of action. When you feel a negative reaction arising, don't just count to ten; consider the consequences of reacting a certain way. You'll soon realize, if you are honest about it, that animal reactivity only escalates tensions, and creates distance and discord. Specifically, it makes matters worse to react to criticism with resentment or to attack with counterattack.
2. Balance short term objectives against long term objectives. Every person has long term desires as well as short term -- or spontaneous -- desires. Often the two contradict one another. For example, you want to be thin and you want to eat a lot of ice cream.
Hints for Helpers
TIP: Taking too short a view is a common cause of foolish choices. If someone you know is tempted to do something that undermines a long term goal -- like taking a dead end job or snubbing a friend who really cares about them -- do something to help them remember their loftier objective. Perhaps you can offer to help them write a better resume, or suggest a different way to handle the situation with their friend. No matter how they respond, you'll have the satisfaction of being a truly good friend.
3. Make your choices count by making them consistent. What we manifest or become depends upon which side of ourselves we identify with. We must choose between our animal and our spiritual sides. Some people may say that investing in both sides -- doing some good behavior and some bad, or doing some high thinking and some low thinking -- constitutes a healthy balance. Such a life is not so much balanced, but rather divided. And a divided life is inevitably painful, confused, and inefficient. It works against itself.
What is opportunity? A chance to choose wisely.
Evolution is a path of choices. Choice can make the path long or short, bitter or sweet, happy or sad. To choose well and wisely is the way to all that is good and Godly.
by David Truman
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