If You Really Want To Piss People Off, Tell Them That They Have The Power To Change Their Lives

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“All that changed is what I believed was possible.”

Five years ago I wrote that in a journal. I had realized the quality of my life was dependent not by what I believed I deserved, or was capable of, or determined I was “meant to do,” but what I believed was possible. That’s all: just what I thought maybe could happen. My willingness to see things change began to change them.

Writing online has exposed me to the fact that nothing elicits a more adverse response in people than suggesting that very idea: that one has the power to change their own life. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

If you listen closely, you will notice that people defend their pain more than they defend their dignity, happiness and potential combined.

People have more excuses for why their pain is permanent than why it isn’t… which is why it remains.

When someone abuses you, anger is not only the natural response, it is the healthy response. There are systemic and cultural issues that breed injustice and “choosing to be happy” won’t fix them. When you are in pain, you are responding to something that’s hurting you, and ignoring it won’t make it go away. To not grieve a loss would be to never have loved in the first place.

But the illusion is that if we choose forgiveness, we invalidate anger. If we choose hope, we ignore suffering. If we let go, we stop caring. If our pain is movable, it isn’t legitimate. If we believe we can change our lives, we are taking the blame for fucking them up in the first place.

And that’s why we defend the things we claim not to want.

Choosing forgiveness does not excuse other people’s actions, it is just knowing that what happened was unfair and yet we don’t have to be imprisoned by it forever. Letting go of those we love means continuing to honor them with our actions instead of our grief. Knowing that we are responsible for our own state of mind does not mean the world won’t aggravate or hurt or disappoint us, it is just acknowledging that it is under no obligation not to. Believing we can choose happiness doesn’t mean we are always happy, it just means we don’t wait to be handed the circumstances we want. Believing we can change those circumstances begins to change them – it reminds us that what happens to us is not always our fault, it is always our problem.

Choosing the higher road doesn’t mean we float off and disengage with the very real problems of the world, it means we are no longer paralyzed. It doesn’t mean our pain isn’t real, it just means it’s not forever. 

This isn’t new. This isn’t novel. It’s just not the path of least resistance. It requires courage and resilience and self-awareness and the development of true mental strength. It requires us to surrender.

And yet, at the same time, it is the simplest choice because it is the only choice. The only variable is the amount of time you take to arrive and allow yourself some quiet hope. I can think of nothing more humbling than the belief that the future can be better, and we have the power to make it so – not in ignorance of suffering, but in spite of it. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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