empathy

How to Own Up to Your Choices

Painting by Joshua LaRock

Painting by Joshua LaRock

It’s so difficult to admit that you screwed up, that you have let somebody down and really accept for yourself what you’ve done. But all of us have to do it.

These cases can be so complicated that we’d do almost anything to escape them. Suddenly the prospect of never talking to a person seems reasonable. It’s the moment when you feel like you want to disappear, simply vanish and not have to deal with the awkwardness, disappointment, or complications that you have caused.

However, the secret to navigating these rocky waters is not trying to avoid any bad consequences and to take responsibility for your acts. This means being honest with people about why you made your decisions, such as:
“Yes, I’ve run away because I wanted to live my dream. I hope you’ll be able to understand me. I did not do it to hurt you.”

Some things will be easier to explain, but other will be more difficult and not met with forgiveness. But you should try anyway, because we have free will, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices.

As frustrating as it might seem sometimes, it’s quite natural if we look for similarities in the laws of nature. Indeed, Newton’s third law of motion, one of the most famous laws of physics, is that every action has a reaction (greatly simplified).

Unlike in physics however, in real life we can’t always calculate what that reaction will be. Sure, we can use logic, but this doesn’t always guarantee success when dealing with relationships. The people you come across in life do not necessarily think and act as you thought they would or as others did before them.

Let’s give a practical example. You have the freedom to strike up a conversation with the blue-eyed woman, who has captured your attention since she walked in the room. But you are not free from the consequences of this action. Not even if you run away before she gives you an answer.

I advocate strongly for pursuing one’s dream and going all in for that which we desire, but that is never an excuse not to accept the responsibility for your acts and decisions. Yes, run away and live your dream! But do not expect others to be unaffected when you leave and don’t expect everything to work out positively.

Deal gracefully with the consequences. For you they might seem irrelevant because you’ve been out and about living your dream, but it might have been much tougher for those waiting for you to get back. If you care about them, take responsibility, put the work in. If you don’t care about them, still take responsibility, do it for yourself.

This paradox is not meant to keep you away from making choices, is meant to make you take better ones. Just ask yourself if it’s worth it? While this may seem like common sense, a lot of us don’t do this often enough. Make the decisions that give rise to consequences you can take responsibility for.

Also, you can’t try to shift the blame onto others. “Maybe I wouldn’t have left if you treated me right”. As true as that might be sometimes, you need to acknowledge your part. “I left because I had to. If you treated me better maybe I would not have gotten to that point”. The difference is subtle, perhaps you don’t even notice it, but it is there.

We’re afraid to deal to accept blame or acknowledge that some people may disagree with our decisions. That fear goes to that extent that we prefer to throw the blame on others, have fights with them and break away from them, all in an attempt to avoid the consequences of something, or the blame for something we have done.

Don’t let fear win. Prove you can be better.

William Alec is a full time writer, dreamer and art lover. He took to writing at age 14 and his latest novel is called A hospital for souls.