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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Choosing to Decide

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

“It is our choices that show us who we really are. ”  This wisdom comes from none other than Aldus Dumbledore, Hogwarts Headmaster.  In many ways the choices we make do turn around and make us.

Throughout this year, you will see in Lumunos materials an invitation to think about your wellness.  In many ways, this is what Lumunos has always been about—the opportunity to see ourselves whole:  mind, body and spirit.  Wellness is about making choices:  to exercise and eat right; to value relationships; to engage in spiritual practices; to wrestle with the balance of self-care and care for others.

This opportunity to choose is our birthright.  While some people clearly have more choices than others, we always can choose.   This is the power of  witnesses like Victor Frankl or Nelson Mandela:  even in the most horrifically inhumane settings, we claim our humanity by choosing how we respond to our circumstances.  In a much more mundane example, I could say that I don’t have time to exercise or pray, but it would be more accurate to say that I am choosing not to.

To say we can choose doesn’t mean it is easy.  At the moment I am typing this blog while desperately trying not to spill soup on the keypad.  I’m working while eating, trying to shave a few extra minutes out of my workday.  Why? Because tomorrow morning I want to go to school with my son.  Most of us aren’t choosing between going to the gym or smoking a pack of cigarettes.  Our choices are much harder:  work priorities vs. family time; caring for my health vs. worthy volunteer efforts; time for my marriage vs. time with friends.  

As agonizing as these decisions can be, they are actually good for us.  From a health perspective, research has shown that the very act of making decisions helps us to heal.  In just one example, the nursing home residents who made choices about meals and activities fared much better than those who were told what to do.  Yale surgeon and author Bernie Siegel writes, “People who choose their own therapies have fewer side effects than those who silently submit to treatment because their doctors told them to.”  (Love,Medicine and Miracles, by Dr. Bernie Siegel). 

Choosing is good for our health and it is good for our soul.  As much as I struggle with these hard decisions, the process is good.  Discernment drives me deeper into my values and priorities.  And like many hard things, it pushes me towards God.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer may have said it best:

I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.  One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type!), a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or healthy one.  By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.  In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God…

Blessings on your choices, as you live in the midst of life’s duties, problems, successes and failures. 

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