This is a reblog of a post I wrote for Zazen Life. Tim contacted me there after reading one of my posts, and asked me to elaborate for his site. Now, I am returning it to my blog. I hope someone finds some help in it somewhere, or at least an interesting read:
Making the Choice
So often in life, we drift past the opportunity to make a choice; many times, the choice doesn’t seem vital enough to spend time on. Or perhaps we sense that the choices are too large or too vital and that we are incapable of wielding that kind of power in our own being. Sadly, with these fear-based hesitations, we pass by an opportunity to know more of ourselves – our spirits and our lives, and to direct our futures.
From early in our lives, we are surrounded by adults modeling different ways of behaving in society. When we are very small, we absorb all of this information without any discernment, not knowing that every action and behavior we witness is the choice of the person involved. This informational assault becomes our personal computer file of possible ways to interact with the world around us. As we age through our teens, we begin to weed through that file, discarding some, adopting others, forming our selves by the combination of our choices.
Strangely, we often miss completely the fact that we are choosing, or that we have choices to make. Even if we are directed outright to make a choice, we often feel incapable, as we react to self-doubt and fear of making the wrong choice. Who does not think, even if only for an instant, about being a child and being told we were wrong? Wrong, as a concept, is a lifelong imprint of the legacy handed down by our parents. Not necessarily maliciously, or with any thought; I am almost sure that they taught us what their parents taught them. I believe all parents intentionally or unconsciously so communicate their own notion of right and wrong that many children do not learn they can make those decisions for themselves. Some people overcome this, others don’t. But our fear of doing the wrong thing is forever tied to those early lessons.
So what can a person do? Any number of things, but I would suggest early on that a person understands that, whether right or wrong, his or her choices are a vital part of self-actualization. Not until I feel free to succeed or fail on the basis of my own choices can I venture into any new act or thought prepared to make those choices.
I will need to employ judgment – not in the psychobabble No one should ever pass judgment over anyone else. Judgment is the single most important skill on which an individual can depend, in order to make true personal choices. If we don’t understand both sides of a choice, we likely will not make that choice without leaning back on learned ideas of good and bad, right and wrong that may no longer indicate anything about whom we are choosing to be.