The late Stephen Covey tells a story about a time he was speaking to a group of people in Sacramento, California:
… I was speaking on the subject of proactivity, a woman in the audience stood up in the middle of my presentation and started talking excitedly. It was a large audience, and as a number of people turned to look at her, she suddenly became aware of what she was doing, grew embarrassed and sat back down. But she seemed to find it difficult to restrain herself and started talking to the people around her. She seemed so happy.
I could hardly wait for a break to find out what had happened. When it finally came, I immediately went to her and asked if she would be willing to share her experience.
“You just can’t imagine what’s happened to me!” she exclaimed.
“I’m a full-time nurse to the most miserable, ungrateful man you can possibly imagine. Nothing I do is good enough for him. He never expresses appreciation; he hardly even acknowledges me. He constantly harps at me and finds fault with everything I do. This man has made my life miserable and I often take my frustration out on my family. The other nurses feel the same way. We almost pray for his demise.
“And for you to have the gall to stand up there and suggest that nothing can hurt me, that no one can hurt me without my consent, and that I have chosen my own emotional life of being miserable well, there was just no way I could buy into that.
“But I kept thinking about it. I really went inside myself and began to ask, ‘Do I have the power to choose my response?’
“When I finally realized that I do have that power when I swallowed that bitter pill and realized that I had chosen to be miserable, I also realized that I could choose not to be miserable.
“At that moment I stood up. I felt as though I was being let out of San Quentin. I wanted to yell to the whole world, ‘I am free! I am let out of prison! No longer am I going to be controlled by the treatment of some person.’ ”
It’s not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us.”
Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, tragedies, sickness, and death, but for the most part, we are a direct result of the choices we’ve made with the experiences we’ve encountered in this life.
I read a quote yesterday that I’ve been reflecting upon; “The world we see and interact with is the product of how our mind perceives the world.” We are assaulted each day by an overabundance of visual, auditory, sensory stimuli. It is hard not to be separated by what we experience. However, if our minds, emotions, and spirits are ever to be free we must train our minds to be still so we can experience the world anew and break free from what we’ve known, what we’ve thought, the life we’ve lived.
I was talking with someone this week about choices and the impact every one of them has upon our lives. “Each step,’ I said ‘is a step down the path of your life. At the end of the journey is your death. When you’re lying in the box what will people say you did? Who will people say you were?”
It is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around sometimes that we are mostly a direct result of our own decisions. There are few things which happen to us which are not a consequence of our choosing. This is not to dismiss diseases, abuses, crimes, and other challenges which can impact our lives without us bearing responsibility but most of what we do and who we are is a direct result of the life we choose to live, the path we choose to walk, the people we decide to be.
One good choice, one step in the right direction, can be a powerful act which reverberates to every corner of our lives and to the deepest part of our souls. Each day, what we think about, what we do, who we spend time with, what we read or don’t read, watch or don’t watch, learn or not, are steps toward or away from the person we need to be to make the world and those directly impacted by our lives better.
The other morning I took the dog outside for some “private” time and waited on the front porch for him to finish. He was taking an extra long so I started walking to make sure he was focused on the task at hand. However, as I stepped forward I walked into a spider web. It was on my face and I did the obligatory “spider web dance” everyone does where you throw your hands in the air, wipe your face and hands trying to get the sticky substance off your face and body. The web belonged to a small spider and the web was invisible until I walked into it.
I feel like our country and world has been walking into spider webs this week. Invisible, sticky, hard to avoid and get out of situations and circumstances. Things such as racial tensions which we avoid until we can’t have been front and center. Politics and how they divide us. History and its impact on our culture. Power, ego, arrogance, and leadership has stuck to those who are trying to direct and guide us. Mistakes, bad choices, negative thinking, biases, judgment, have all clung to us and seem impossible to get rid of.
Wisdom tells us that if we wish to know the true way we must be still, silent, at peace and humble. However, it seems impossible because new crises and threats emerge seemingly every day. There’s also another wisdom saying; “Be still for at least 30 minutes unless you are busy or in a hurry then sit still for an hour.”
I long for our world to simply be still, for a moment, and see the difference it could make.