You Always Have a Choice

harden or softenToday is Friday, December 13, 2013.

“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder.  You always have the choice.”  – Dalai Lama

Someone posted this message on Facebook today and I couldn’t let a day go by without commenting on it.  It was quoted in a book called Inside the Divine Pattern: Discovery of Truth, Wisdom and Prophecy, by Anthony Douglas Williams.

My father’s best advice has always been, “Don’t let little things bother you.”  My mom’s best advice has always been, “Don’t let things make you bitter.”  I’ve realized that these two pieces of advice are two sides of the same coin, and that they are another way of presenting the Dalai Lama’s advice.  My folks would probably be surprised to hear that their advice is the same as that of a Buddhist spiritual leader, but I believe that all great advice holds a measure of Truth, no matter the source.

The key to my dad’s advice is to realize that most things are “little things” and that I need to let most things just roll off my back.  In other words, I need to be conscious of what I react to, emotionally, and I need to avoid overreacting to situations that I consider negative, especially if there’s nothing I can do to change them.  As I become more and more conscious, as I grow in spiritual maturity, I realize that I can choose and moderate my reactions.  And I can choose to be pro-active, rather than reactive to situations.  In other words, I can find one thing about the situation that I do have some control over, even if it is only my own attitude.

Hidden in my mom’s advice is the concept that we are more than the sum of what happens to us, and that the situations we find ourselves in don’t define us.  As well, just because something negative is happening now doesn’t mean that our future will be dogged by the same sort of negativity. Things can and do change.  We can and do change things.  Hanging onto our negative thoughts (anger, remorse, worry, fear, disappointment, etc.) eventually hardens us and makes us bitter, to the point where we are locked into the past and we lose our ability to enjoy whatever positive things the present moment has to offer.  The idea is to acknowledge our negative feelings, then to let them go, realizing that just because something awful has happened to us, we are not automatically awful persons.

As the Dalai Lama says, we always have a choice.  We can accept the fruits of our life experience and take the bitter along with the sweet, knowing that our difficulties have the potential to offer us the benefit of spiritual growth.  Or we can continue to entertain our negative thoughts until they make a home in our minds and hearts.

What will you choose?  🙂

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