Stephen Covey wrote the wildly popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you go to BrainyQuote you’ll find beaucoup things he said. Among those worthy of contemplation is this one: “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
Decisions are choices. For instance . . . When someone says something mean to me, I can decide/choose to retort with something mean, or I can ignore it or say something genuinely nice back. If I lose my job, I can fume and sulk and curse the stars, or I can take a few deep breaths and begin developing a plan to land new employment. If I am disabled in some way by accident, illness, or aging, I can wallow in self-pity and depression, or I can passionately embrace life with whatever abilities remain.
Psychology gurus will debate the issue six ways from Tuesday: can we choose our emotions? My proposition is sometimes yes, sometimes no. If I walk around a curve in an African trail and see a black mamba slithering toward me, chances of experiencing fear are pretty good . . . and rightly so. If hear someone make a blatantly racist remark, I can get livid with anger or I can feel sorrow and compassion for the person. The latter can happen if one has conditioned one’s mind (which gives rise to emotions) to think certain ways.
Whether or not one considers emotions something one can choose, without question one can decide how to react to circumstances and the various emotions they evoke. By my lights, the key question in any given situation is: will my reaction/decision/choice be helpful or harmful, constructive or destructive . . . to me and/or others?
Being human means I won’t always make the right decision. But it behooves me to always wrestle seriously with what seems to be a good and right one.