“I had no choice…?”
I asked a young girl why she got married to someone she detested, she replied, “I didn’t have a choice. I had to get married because of the pressure of my parents. Besides, time was no longer on my side.”
Let me help you understand that answer. In the African society, women are under immense pressure to marry and bear children. This pressure is due to lots of factors such as:
My work as a Pastor takes me behind the scenes of so-called ‘happy’ and ‘successful’ marriages in Africa. There I see a lot that is carefully screened from public view – ugliness, abuses, sadness, regrets, pain, and torture. These, as I’ve already said, are carefully veiled from the public. This has let to the illusion that because of the low divorce rate in African countries, these nations have better and longer lasting marriages. What a myth! The truth is that most marriages in Africa are held together for longer periods, not because of love, mutual understanding, common purpose/passion, etc., but rather because of cultural forces, fear, and ignorance!
A lot of women in Africa would rather remain single, but ultimately succumb to economic, family, peer, and cultural pressure to marry. Most live unhappily ever after, continually wishing it were possible to be single and still retain their dignity in the society. Many have told me, “I wish I had remained single, but what could I have done? I had no choice.”
The phrase, “I had no choice,” is a recurrent one in my pastoral counseling sessions, and personal interactions with people. After years of reflection on the matter, I no longer accept that as a valid statement of anyone’s situation. I don’t believe it is accurate for anyone to say, “I had no choice,” or “I don’t have a choice.”
The fact is this, you have a choice! – whether or not you believe this, of course, is another matter entirely. However, your belief, or unbelief does not alter the fact that you do have a choice.
You have a choice
You may or not be aware of this, but whenever you or anyone thinks or says, “I don’t have a choice,” it’s actually an expression of one or more of the following three realities:
“I’m not aware of my choices.” This reflects an ignorance of the available spectrum of options in a particular situation.
“I can’t afford the cost of the other alternatives.”
“I’m not willing to pay the price for my preferred option.”
In each case, the bottom line is this, you have a choice .
For instance, the young girl I referred to at the beginning had the choice of not getting married to that person. Of course, there are attendant, and probably uncomfortable consequences to that choice – it was an option nevertheless! In her particular case, getting married to someone she detested was not a result of her having no alternatives, it was rather a case of her not being aware of her choices; it could also be that she couldn’t afford to face the consequences of that choice – ridicule and whatever else there may be.
Have you ever been in a situation where you think that you really don’t have a choice?
Could it really be true that you don’t have a choice?
I believe that you do have a choice over what actions to take under specific circumstances.
Below are a few important questions you must ask if you want to become more empowered:
- What are the available options?
- Can I afford the cost of my preferred option?
- Am I willing to pay this price for my preferred option?
Listen, I’m not naive! I understand that there are circumstances over which you’ve got no control. I read somewhere that “you don’t get what you want in life, you get what you choose.” That doesn’t ring true to me!
As someone pointed out to me recently during an online interaction, “I think certain circumstances are consequences of OUR actions; some of OTHER’s actions and some are what God chooses to allow us to experience. If I give my money away, I choose it. If someone robs me, I didn’t choose it – the thief did and God allowed it.” I agree with her. Of course, whether or not God allowed it is a debate I’m not willing to venture into in this current post!
In any case, some stuff come to us in life that we neither wanted nor chose. God gives us free will to choose, however, he gives that free will to others as well! Consequently, how others use their free wills could create realities not wanted or chosen by us.
I understand that the options available to us at any point in time are limited by several factors and forces. I also understand that we do not have an unlimited number of choices. However, there are always other options, other alternatives, and other choices.
So even in the midst of realities not chosen or created by your conscious decisions, you still have a choice!
You have a choice as to how to respond to circumstances over which you had or have zero control.
According to your faith!
The sad and unsettling reality, however, is that we are not always aware of our choices.
Furthermore, we don’t always make our choices consciously. This is because, over the course of our human developmental process, we’ve been conditioned in certain ways that tend to make our choices ‘automated’. There’s a whole lot of choices that we’ve made but which we are not aware of – which were not made consciously. This simply is a manifestation of a mentality that says, “This is the only choice I have.”
We think that we must passively accept certain things that are thrown at us without any complaints. Was it my choice to be born in a poor African Village? No. Do I have a choice whether or not to remain under those circumstances? Yes, I do. Did anyone choose to be born blind? No. Do they have a choice as to whether or not to remain blind? If you ask Jesus Christ of Nazareth, He’ll reply, “Yes. They do!” That’s the meaning of:
“According to your faith…” ~ Matthew 9:29
That’s beyond the scope of this post, anyway; yet it’s clear evidence that even when you think that there are no alternatives, it might well be that you are not aware of the existence of other options!
Empower your capacity to choose!
Do you desire to take fuller control over your life’s outcomes? Then you must empower your capacity to choose! The following are steps you must take towards taking greater responsibility over your life and fortunes:
#1 Raise your level of awareness of the full spectrum of choices available to you. For instance,during a talk at the Success Academy Nigeria, I told the young girls present that “The first qualification for making the right decision in marriage is to realize that you don’t have to get married! You do not need a man to be complete in life, or to fulfill your divine assignment on earth. When you have this awareness, it frees you from the trap of desperation which is so cheapening, ugly, and repulsive. It gives you the space to assess marriage proposals on the basis of your life’s ultimate passion and purpose.” The more aware you are of your options in any area of life, the more empowered you become and the greater control you’ assume over your life and fortunes.
#2 Develop the courage to embrace the consequences of your choices, the courage to take the chances that you must have to take.
#3 Muster adequate resources to fund your preferred choices. An individual who wants to make a journey from one city to another has several transportation options – trekking, cycling, motor bike, bus, train, airplane, and so on. Obviously, the guy with a fatter purse is more empowered to take the option of his choice! Such is life. If you want to take the ‘miracle option’ to move out of any unwanted condition (such as an ‘incurable’ illness), you may need to develop your spiritual faith.
It’s all about awareness, courage, and resourcefulness!
What choices are you making today?