The Loving Spirit

There is an old saying, “God gives us our relatives, thank God we can choose our friends.” (Ethel Watts Mumford) It can be argued that we do not choose our co-workers, we do not choose our neighbors, and we did choose our mates even if we did not get to choose our children (adoptions excluded). However, we do choose to hold down one job or another, we do choose to live in certain houses or apartments, and we do or do not choose to have children. This question of personal “choice” is a bit unclear in the actual application as we interact responsibly with adult society where we make some of our own decisions and have to respect the decisions of others. To put the point politely, we can choose to have conversations or we can walk away; we can isolate ourselves or we can reach out; we can choose to stay or move on- but there are always issues and problems that arise when people interact.

It is unrealistic to think that we will enjoy or appreciate every person we encounter in life. At times, we fight to hold on to our own possessions, beliefs, and human rights in a world where it is possible to lose what we have to others. This does not negate the fact that we are still making our own choices about the situations that arise from living in a world where people interact on some level, in some way, almost every day.  I cannot be responsible for most of the choices that other people make, but I am responsible for my own choices. At times, individuals join and make choices together and there are times when we make choices for each other. In a world of “choosing”, our personal choices influence others and others personal choices will affect our own lives. I do not believe the issue at stake is did we choose one another or are we forced to accept one another. Instead, I think the questions we need to ask ourselves revolve around the issue of human nature and the loving spirit.

We will not always agree and we will not always disagree, but to remain in a world where choices are possible and choosing in any way limits further choices by ourselves and by others, respect, fairness, and communication are necessary in our interactions with one another. Whether we are making our own choices or choosing for others, the responsibility that comes with decision-making requires these three elements to protect each and every one of us from the anger and frustration in the human condition that results from the perception that we have been acted upon in such a way that our own autonomy has been removed. To preserve our freedom to choose, it is not necessary to take that freedom away from others. We must, however, acknowledge our individual responsibility for choosing will necessarily determine how, when, and where we include other people in our lives.



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