Tuesday, January 19, 2016


When my younger brother was in preschool, his teacher used to tell the kids all the time, “You always have choices.” This was an excellent mantra for teaching young children self-control and responsibility, and, for the most part, this is excellent advice on life – but if used in the right context.

What I’ve learned as an adult – and parent – is that we don’t always have choices in certain situations. We don’t have a choice as to who loves us, who wants to spend time with us, or other, unpredictable things life might throw our way. We also cannot protect our children from being hurt by others as they navigate childhood, adolescence, and on into adulthood.
Where the real choice lies is in how you respond to such situations.

Sometimes in life we do things that cause pain to other people. Sometimes people do things that cause pain to us. Despite some evidence to the contrary, I tend to believe that most people are good at heart. Most people try to make the right decisions and to treat others the right way. I like to think that most people would not try to hurt someone else on purpose.
We often get caught up in our own wants, needs, and pain and cannot seem to see beyond ourselves and how we feel.  These are the moments when we can inadvertently cause pain for others, or place expectations on others that they are not ready, or willing, or able to fulfill.

Often, we don’t realize the pain we cause to others by our actions, or we minimize, in our minds, the level of pain that another may be feeling. There is no way to measure how someone else feels, even if they express those feelings. We can try to be empathetic to others’ feelings but we can never truly know how they feel. They may hide behind a mask of being okay, or use anger and resentment to deflect their inner pain. They may lash out at others, causing a ripple of pain in the process.
We can never control another person, and that means that, no matter how much you may love or care about someone, you cannot force them to feel the same way or to want to be a part of your life.

Everyone heals from pain differently. Even if you realize and feel sorrow for actions that have caused pain to another, the best we can do is apologize, attempt to make amends, and move on. Not all apologies are accepted. Forgiveness from others is not guaranteed. Not all relationships can be repaired. And sometimes, it takes much longer for a wound to heal in order for a relationship to rebuild. And sometimes, a relationship is not able to be salvaged.  
We cannot control who comes into our life, who chooses to stay, and who chooses to leave.  All we can do is apologize when we are wrong, try to forgive when we are wronged, and understand that everyone has their own reasons for feeling the way they do.

Forgiveness is a powerful thing. Forgiveness means letting go of the past and hurts caused by it, but it doesn’t mean that things can always go back to how they were.
But there are choices that we always have. We can decide that the pain from the past no longer has power over us. We can decide that someone else’s actions will not affect our own happiness. And often, that means setting boundaries. Above all else, you must protect your own heart. And if that means walking away from the past, in order to maintain our own mental wellbeing, well then that is what has to be done. We can choose to accept apologies without choosing to let someone back into our lives who has hurt us. We can apologize when we are wrong. And we can – we must – accept the things that we cannot change. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the wisest decision is to let go.

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