Two unrelated incidents come to light recently that actually sent a chill up my spine.
One happened while on vacation, the other on my radio show.
The cruise ship was having a “Best Biceps” contest and we encouraged our buff friend to enter. She is not the type who likes attention on herself but we thought she could really shine in this area. We playfully encouraged her to step out of her norm and give it a try. Reluctantly, she agreed. Early into the contest, we could see it was taking an unexpected (and sexual) turn. We watched tentatively to see what our friend was going to do. The contestants were lined up on the open deck stairwell as they choose 4 male passengers to judge. There was an easy exit off the top of the steps which we thought she would take. When she didn’t take the ‘out,’ we assumed she was good to go and we watched with our breath held.
She remained classy throughout the event (despite the pressure to bring a sexual element to the contest) but the minute it was over she dashed off, clearly upset. Upon finding our friend, who was humiliated beyond belief even though she did nothing ‘wrong,’ we attempted to ease her pain and talk out the issue. We were curious as to why she didn’t just take the ‘off ramp’ of the stairs when she had the opportunity. What she said next was a game-changer.
“I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I felt like I was stuck. I felt like to would let you guys down.”
Two weeks later I am doing a radio show about human trafficking. My guest was an experiential worker who got into the trade without even knowing it. At 15 and from a ‘good home,’ she answered an ad to work at a ‘bath house’ – she didn’t even know what a bath house was. Before she knew it she was alone in a room with a strange man and…
During the interview one of the questions I asked her was, “Why didn’t you just leave?”
And then she repeated, almost word for word, the same haunting phrase our friend had uttered a few weeks before.
“I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I felt like I was stuck. I felt like I had to.”
While my examples here are very different, they have many similarities, too. Even though these situations were sexual in nature, certainly we can relate the feelings shared by these people to our everyday issues as well.
For example, how many times:
- have you done things that didn’t feel right?
- have you done things that you knew were not leading you towards your greater vision, purpose or good?
- have you heard that little voice inside of you and ignored it.
- have you sensed your intuition, but pushed it aside.
- have you muttered yes to something when everything inside was screaming no (perhaps to something as simple as taking on yet another project that may push you to overwhelm).
Think of the bride who felt it was ‘too late’ to cancel the wedding. Think of the Dad who feels he must work non-stop to provide a certain lifestyle for his family. Think of the couples who are financially depleted but continue to spend beyond their means. Think of something in your life that may have been different if you would have been a little bolder, more creative, confident or aware of the choices available to you at the time.
There is a big difference between trying new things to stretch and grow yourself strong and doing things that feel wrong to the very core of your being.
There are subtle nuances and a few questions that will help you sense, feel and know the difference.
- Are you doing it to please others or to please yourself?
- How would someone you loved and respected advise you?
- How will you feel after you done what you have agreed to?
- Would you want your child or someone you loved and cared about to say yes to something like this?
While there are a plethora of things that we can’t control, at the end of the day we really need to embrace the things that we can – like the words that come out of our mouths, what we say yes and no to, and the choices that we have.
Even when the choice isn’t between good and bad.
Even if the choice is between bad and worse.
Even if it’s just our feelings about the situation.
Even if you think it’s too late.
Even if we will let someone down.
Even if we don’t have a ‘good’ reason.
Even if we will feel bad about saying no.
Know yourself well enough, mustered up the confidence, and choose what you believe is right for you. No one can argue with how you feel.
Most of all, remember … you always have a choice.