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How much of who and what we are is really in our control? Answering this question might help us to better understand each other. If we gain insight we may find ourselves less angry with each other.

What don’t we choose?:

  • Our race
  • Our sex
  • Our parents
  • Our country and region
  • The personality we are born with

The list goes on and on. From there we are raised in an environment that we did not choose. We also have chemicals coursing through our bloodstream that influence our thoughts and behaviors. Some of these chemicals are adrenaline, dopamine, cortisol and etc. If you are a combat veteran or anyone who has lived under a stressful situation you may be more familiar than most with the feelings we get under stress. You did not choose to have these chemicals running through your body.

It does not end there. It is important to remember that all the things above are building blocks for who we will become. We might think we are making decisions in life that are free. However, all the decisions that come in life are built upon a set of things we had no control over. In the physical reality we live in, everything is cause and effect. Never once have we observed a causeless effect.

It may help to keep the following simple statement in mind when getting angry at someone: “That could have been me.” There are at least two other popular sayings that have been born out of this thought process. “You need to walk a mile in their shoes to understand.” and “There but for the grace of God go I.” These popular sayings came about because some of us understand who and what we are is not a clear cut choice. Most of the factors that made us who and what we are were beyond our control.

Nobody would suggest that we do not or should not hold people accountable for their words and deeds. Societal order would break down and there would be complete anarchy. Here is a quick story that illustrates how this works:

A murderer stood before a judge waiting to be sentenced. The judge asked if he had anything to say before he ruled. The man said:

“Your honor, you know my life story. You know I had no real control over the things that made me what and who I am. I had no real choice but to murder those people.”

The judge responded:

“You are correct. I agree with you 100%. I too am a man who has no real choice. I also have no choice but to sentence you to hang by the neck until dead.”

If we think the last few years have been stressful, just wait. It is going to get worse before it gets better. During this time, cooler heads must prevail in order to keep the peace. When you can, remember that the person you disagree with could have been you and you could have been them. We cannot control most things in life but maybe we can control, to some degree, how we think & feel about things.

Do not take this to mean that we should stop fighting for what we believe in. It may help if we do it with a little more understanding.

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