Talk 9 — You Always Have a Choice
"You Always Have a Choice"
On the cassettes published by Unity, a mistake was made in labeling talks #8 and #9. Talk #8 is labeled "Attitudes", but the content is all about "The Supreme Adventure." Talk #9 is labeled "The Supreme Adventure" but the content is all about "You Always Have a Choice." I have taken the liberty to rename these two talks.
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009 You Always Have a Choice
It is said that hope springs eternal in the human breasts, but I'm sure that many others have observed in our own experience or in the lives of others that at times, this hope is reduced to a faint glimmer. Many persons cry out with Shakespeare's Juliet, "Come weep with me, past hope, past cure, past help."
A person may be trapped in a situation in a relationship that is destructive and depleting and he may well move through resignation and resistance and come up with the statement, "Well what are you doing to do." Or perhaps, "I have no choice." And I've been teaching this new insight and truth for over 30 years, and recently I was indulging in a little reflection, and I asked myself if I had an opportunity to convey one little bit of philosophy to the masses, what would it be? Just one simple idea.
In other words, reducing the whole metaphysical system into the least common denominator, what is the most important insight needed to open the door in the mind of a person to the vast discovery of truth?
And I've concluded that it is simply this. You always have a choice. There is no such thing as a choiceless life. I want us to think about that this morning. You may be living in trying times. You may be faced with a shaky economy that is out of your hands, but which has a detrimental effect upon your personal security. You may be an innocent bystander in a world of war, a society replete with inequities and injustices, and a community stricken with blight and depravity, but all this is in the world out there.
Perhaps there's little you can do to change it, to change conditions or even to remove yourself from their influence, but you do have a choice for life is consciousness. You live in a world of your thinking, a world of your mind. Things may happen around you. Things may happen to you, but the only things that really count are the things that happen in you, in your consciousness, in your mind. Your world, as far as you're concerned, is formed and shaped totally and completely by your attitudes and your feelings, by your consciousness.
As the poet once said, "You can make every day of your life a dance, a dirge, or a life march as thou wilt. The choice is yours." It's true, the winds of life and of circumstance may blow, and the winds may not always blow in the way you want them to. They may not always lead you in the way you want to go, and you can't regulate the winds, and certainly there's little to be gained in complaining about them, but you have a choice.
[inaudible 00:03:41] Wilcox sat by the East River here in New York City a number of years ago meditating on the fact that people coming from the same environment and the same parentage turn out so differently, and she was inspired by watching the sailboats coming and going to their docking and out to sea, and she wrote the immortal lines, "One ship drives east, and the other drives west by the self same winds that blow. Tis the set of the sails and not the gales that determines the way they go."
For instance, you could consider a person who has become a classic reference in American culture, such as Abraham Lincoln. The wind of circumstance could easily have blown this person into a harbor of stalwart mediocrity, a small circle of farm and home and church and community life because it seemed that everything went against. In the eyes of the world, he could easily have been called a loser because everything he tried to do failed. But he tacked into the teeth of the gale of circumstances, and every tack bringing an opportunity to educate and expand his understanding until his mind ultimately became a fitting vehicle to take the responsibility of sailing our ship of state.
You may say, "Oh you're taking about attitudes." Well of course, because it is attitudes that make our life, and you may object, "Well a person must be realistic. This situation has happened. It was not of my doing. It's beyond my control. Now I'm might just as well accept it. It's the way things are." On the contrary. It is not the way things are, but it's the way you see them. The way you think about them. The way you hold them in your own consciousness.
Perhaps you cannot change the fact of a condition of your life, but you do always have the choice of how you're going to think about it. You can chose between fear and faith, between despair and hope, between pessimism and constructive thinking and speaking, and whether you know it or not, you have already made that choice. The choice is always yours.
Fundamental to this new insight and truth is the principal that we reiterate so often. Attitudes are the forerunners of conditions. When we chose an attitude, whether we know it or not, we chose the attendant results. It may, at first, be shocking to contemplate, but permissiveness with the thought children of our mind is far more widespread and infinitely more destructive than any permissiveness with the children of our homes.
It is often said, by way of one of the many cliches that are rampant in our lives, "Into every life, some rain must fall." It's a negative inference that usually accompanies such words of resignation as, "Well, you can't win them all. What are you going to do?" And we make these statements jokingly, but the implication is, there's no choice. Certainly some rain must fall into every life. The rain symbolically, and in a real sense, is required for the growth and fruitage of nature, even if the rain is not good for the picnic or your own outing. You can't regulate the weather, but you have a choice, and this is dealt with whimsically by James Whitecomb Riley in a little couplet that I've always delighted in. He says, "It ain't no use to grumble and complain. It's just as easy to rejoice. When God sorts out the weather and sends rain, why rain's my choice." You do have that choice, and we always do.
From ancient China, there's an adage that has great significance to it. It says, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair." And so if someone gets in your hair, or as we say it in another context, if someone gets under your skin, then you might as well face it, this is because you chose to have it that way. You always have a choice. No matter what a person does, the question that we need to ask ourselves is, "Why should I let him decide how I'm going to think or feel or act? The choice is mine. Must always be. I must not give that choice to someone else."
Julian Huxley once said, "Experience is not what happens to a person, it is what he does with what happens to him." And we can always choose what we do about anything that comes in our life. We always have that choice. We can hate, or we can love. We can resist and struggle, or we can deal with it in love and non-resistance. We can worry about it, or we can pray about it and know the truth about it. We can accept it as a crushing blow of defeat, or we can know that even if the other person meant it for evil, God meant it for good, and then we can go on to renewed effort and achievement, but we always have that choice. No one takes it from us.
Mark Twain is the one that at least is reputed to have said, "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." But he trapped in his own humor because everyone does something about the weather every day. You did something about the weather this morning whether you know it or not. If it was a coolish day, you wore a warmish suit. If it's a warmish day, you wear light clothing. If it's raining, you take an umbrella. If it's blowing, as it was this morning, perhaps the ladies put something around their hair, or in consciousness, you may resist it or be nonresistant toward it, but you always do something about it, and in this way, we do something about everything that happens in our lives, always. We may ignore some insults. We make take offense at others. We laugh at some difficulties, and we surrender to others. We may make a stepping stone out of an obstacle, or we may make a stumbling block out of some others.
A great principle in this new insight and truth is the incident is external. The reaction is always our own. The incident is external. The reaction is always our own. We may not be able to do much about the incident, but the reaction is in our domain, in our prerogative. We always have a choice. You may say, "But the incident has happened. What are you doing to do?" The fact is, you're going to do something about it. You probably already have. You react to it in some way, and no matter what that reaction is, it is your choice. It is in your mind. There are no automatic reactions brought about by circumstances.
You may say, "But he did so-and-so, and he made me mad." He didn't make you mad at all. You decided to get mad about what he did. You had a choice. You may say, "But I'm not sure I'm going to have a job two weeks from now because they're laying off people, and so I'm worried." But the insecurity of your job doesn't make you worry. You worry because that's the way you decide to deal with the situation about your job, but you always have a choice.
If we become disturbed over something that happens, instead of saying, "Why did that person disturb me?" We need to reflect, "Why should I be disturbed?" Even if he was acting in an disturbing way, why should I get upset about his disturbing ways. If he's going to be totally out of kilter with life, why should I let that take me out of kilter with life? Why should I let him decide how I'm going to feel, how I'm going to react, and a great discovery without which we really don't go very far in getting the insight of truth that leads to abundant living is that whenever I am disturbed, it is because I'm disturbable. Whenever I'm upset, it's because I'm upsetable. Whenever I'm irritable, it is because I am irritable. And though it takes a certain degree of humility and self honesty to admit to this, when we admit to it and realize this relationship, then suddenly we know we always have a choice. We can change that. We can correct the condition.
Now, I'm not suggesting that we should destroy or shackle the emotions, that we should become just passive creatures letting anything happen without ever having any response because life without emotion has no zest, no [inaudible 00:13:35], that delightful Bergsonism word for creative force, but life without control of the emotions is a life that is harassed by destructive fires. What Elliot calls rampaging riots of undisciplined squads of emotion.
We're emotional creatures. Let's face it. Just as surely as we're mental and physical creatures, and the emotions are the conduit through which the creative juices flow for all of us and through which spiritual ectasy is experienced, but the thing that we must realize is that I am not my emotions. I control my emotions or I can do so, and I should do. They're mine to control. The control is always in my hands, not in somebody else's. I always have a choice, and the person who becomes emotionally unstable is a person who's never really discovered and accepted the option that the choice is always his.
No matter how dark a situation may appear, you always have a choice of turning on the light, and as someone once said, it's much better to bring a light than to curse the darkness. You always have that option of turning on more light.
In Psalm 40, it says, "I waited patiently for Jehovah, and he brought me out of a pit." The word wait from the Hebrew word [inaudible 00:15:10] which means to bind together. It's not an acquiescence passively in things, sitting, waiting, with folding hands. That isn't what wait on the Lord means. It implies the choice to turn on the light. I wait on the Lord in the sense that I make contact. I get a sense of oneness. I turn from the thought and feeling of separation to the realization of oneness and wholeness.
So many persons become bowed down under the weight of handicaps and injustices, and I'm sure you know people like this. We would hope that you are not one of them, dealing with some difficulty or some challenge in life, and railing out against the darkness, "Why oh why oh why should this happen to me?"
One young woman who'd had the tragic misfortune of losing her sight went totally blind, and she went through an understandable feeling of turmoil and fear and bitterness, and one day, she had the most unusual thought. Into her consciousness came an idea that most folks would say is irrelevant. Others would say, "How could it ever happen to her in her darkened state?" And the thought was, "Perhaps I can never again see light, but I can think light." And suddenly she discovered that the process of seeing is what the mind does with the stimuli that the eyes record from the outside, and light, in terms of consciousness is the determination that the person puts on these stimuli, and so she decided that even though the stimuli of light hitting the eyes would not be there anymore, she still could think light in every experience.
Interesting thought. Some would say a Pollyanna thought, but the important thing was she immediately turned from sadness and despair and defeat into the radiance of joyous optimism, and she's gone on to make a very happy and constructive life out of the whole experience.
One many, for instance, who had been crippled from birth, who had hobbled with a painful way of getting around in life, and yet, a man who put so many people to shame with his accomplishments and his great spirit and joy and optimism. He was asked by a person once, "Hasn't your physical handicap colored your thinking?" And he replied very quickly, "Of course it has, but I have always chosen the colors." The choice is always ours, and the interesting thing is everybody has some kind of deficiency and we delude ourselves if we think we're alone because we have some problem or handicap. Everybody has a deficiency because life is for living and growing. We wouldn't be here if we were perfect. It's important to know that. That's not being negative. But we always have a choice. We can excuse ourselves because of our handicap. We can say, "Well, it's because of my age or my lack of education or because of the discrimination against my race or my national background or the economic background or foreground of my life. There's nothing I can do." Or we can turn what seems to be a disadvantage into an advantage. We can turn the minus into a plus by a compensating drive to excel.
In other words, no matter what we experience, the important thing is that if it colors our thinking as it probably does, we can choose the colors, and we always have that choice.
I love this little insight of Thoreau. He says, "It is something to be able to paint a particular picture or to carve a statue, and [inaudible 00:19:20] to make a few objects beautiful, but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look to affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." And we could add, "Perhaps that is greatest of choices."
You may be caught up in a spiraling conflict of personalities, and so often, the cliché is, "Well, you know, it takes to make a quarrel." So it would seem because it takes two, there's nothing you can do about it, but it only takes one person to stop a quarrel. Any person can make the choice to get off the tit for tat treadmill at any time. The human of us may desire to get back, to get even for something that's happened, but there's only one way to get even, and you always have that choice, to love, to forgive, to bless. And if you refuse to take this option, then you're a slave to passion and emotion, and you might as well face it.
Quite often, a person is embroiled in anger and bitterness and acts of defensiveness, and he says, "But what can I do, I have no choice?" But you always have a choice. In Jesus' teaching comes the thought that you can chose to turn the other cheek. This means to turn from the side of your nature that reacts and is defensive and hostile to that part of your nature which loves and forgives naturally. When you react in anger or hostility, remember, it's your mind. The reaction is yours. It's your emotion. You're not only letting the birds build nests in your hair, but you're providing all the materials.
Jesus once gave the idea that if someone compels you to go one mile, go with him two. This was taken from the policy of the Roman legions of forcing people to carry their supplies one mile, and this was the way they were such successful armies and logistics. So a person may be required, by life, by his job, by the law or whatever, to do certain things, and you may say, "I'm required to do it? What are you going to do? I have no choice." You do have a choice. Even the person laboriously carrying the burden of a Roman army for a mile. He has the choice. He can carry the load in resistance, or he can carry it in joy. This is going the second mile. It doesn't mean you just say, "Please let me carry it a little farther." It means to go beyond accepting it as something you have to do and deciding it's something that you like to do. This is the key to freedom.
In my book, Discover the Power Within You, I tell the story of a restaurant where all the waitresses were required to smile or they would lose their jobs, and they'd look like [inaudible 00:22:29]. All had these forced little smiles that came to their face whenever they came up to your table. But one of the girls stood out because she was naturally radiant. She smiled, but it was real. Someone asked her about it, and she said that at first, she resented this demand that she smile, and then she made a discovery, all the smiles beyond the first one were her own. And so she made it a point always to go beyond the initial smile to get the fulfillment of smiling, and that's going the second mile, you see.
If you do what you must do and no more, you're a slave. That's true in your work, in your relationships with people, whatever. Quite often, people say, "Well, what are you going to do? I do all I'm supposed to do." You may do all you're supposed to do, but you do not do all you can do, and unless you go beyond what you're supposed to do, you're a slave.
The first mile will bring the paycheck or compliance with the law, but the added mile, of working with interest, giving with love, leads to fulfillment. No work can bring fulfillment. No relationship of itself can bring fulfillment, but you can bring the attitudes of fulfillment toward the work or the relationship if you choose the kind of attitudes that make for fulfillment. The true compensation in any work begins where duty leaves off, and you always have the choice.
So much of the tension that people experience these days comes from money or worry about its insufficiency, and a person my have a fixed supply and fixed obligations, and it would appear that there's nothing he can do, and he'll say, "I have no choice. What can I do? I'm trapped." But again, there is no choiceless life. You can bless your money. You can receive it and spend it in the consciousness of gratitude and abundance rather than with a sense of lack and worry and resistance toward the system and so forth.
Money, to may persons, becomes a symbol of lack. In other words, it's an evidence of how little I have. You can always change that to the idea of the free flow of affluence. You can get the idea that you're always in the flow of substance, and every bit of money, no matter how seemingly inadequate, becomes, in consciousness, a symbol of that limitless flow, and you have the choice of dealing with life in that way.
Now you may say, "But there's one thing that I can't do anything about, and that's the past. What is gone is gone. The wasted years of my life are beyond recall." And then you may go on and indicate how you feel that you're life has been ruined or frustrated by something that you did or did not do or someone that did something to you or something that happened back that there has frustrated your experience, but you always have a choice. You can't have the years back to live over again, but as the prophet Joel says, you can restore the years which the locust have eaten, and the word restore means to make whole, to bring them into context. You can change your attitudes about the past, and thus you can change the influence that the past has upon your today. You can let go of the past. You can stop living in the past. You can stop excusing yourself today because of the past, and you can get into the consciousness of the all things work together for good.
There are those who say that there is a predestination of life, that you can't do anything about it, as the saying is, what will be will be. Why fight it? When you're number is up, you'll go, so why worry? Many say, "I have no choice." Few people really believe that, or they would sit with folded hands and do nothing.
There is no such thing as predestination, but what appears to be such is actually predisposition, streams of consciousness. And this is what may be sensed by the experienced psychic or seer. In other words, he sees not what will happen, but what is likely to happen if that stream of consciousness continues, and so often, people don't take the trouble to realize this. Quite often, the so-called psychic or seer, doesn't point that out. Consciousness can be changed. Any reputable prophet or psychic or astrologer or palmist will admit that it need not happen. You have a choice. You can alter the flow by changing your consciousness.
A doctor's prognosis is very similar to prophesy, because both of them are reading trends, streams of consciousness which can be changed. Doctors may not all accept that option, but this is where metaphysics will take precedence over physics if you insist on it as such so that when the doctor says this and this and this is what you have, and this is what is going to happen, you can say if you will, "Thank you very much. I appreciate that because it helps me to know that I have some work to do, but I'm going to put my own imprint upon this, that I have a choice." Chose ye this day whom you will serve.
So it's important then to get it into your consciousness that you always have a choice. You can chose your attitude. You can chose your mood, and thus you can chose the effect that life's experiences will have upon you. It may be that we're all too wishy-washy about life. You have a choice. You can rise above the pettiness of people and the negative threat of circumstances. You can sit on top of the world, no matter what the condition of that world.
The only things that count in your life, no matter what happens to you or around you, no matter what faces you, no matter what responsibilities you have. The only things that count are the things that happen in you, in your own mind. Think in any way that you want to think. It is an option that can never be taken from you. You always have a choice, and of course, the wisest kind of choice is the choice to love, because in loving, you keep consciously in the flow of God. Choose ye this day, whom you will serve. You make the choice, and that choice will make all the difference in your life.
Copyright 1981 Unity®
Unity Village, MO 64065