I believe in being what I want to be.
I’m talking about how I make decisions. I used to think I could decide by predicting what the outcomes of my actions would be and choosing the best possible option. Unfortunately, over the years, I’ve discovered I’m pitifully unable to make even the simplest predictions.
If I’d been right when I was 18 or 19, we would have ended world poverty and war by now, and I would have had the best marriage possible, raised perfect children and become the world’s greatest teacher and author. Step by step, reality has shown me life is too complex for me to predict much of anything.
So, now I just think about who I want to be. I have discovered that although I can rarely predict how a situation will turn out, I almost always know who I want to be in a situation. I can’t predict how my behavior will affect my marriage, but I know I don’t want to be right, I want to be committed to love and relationship. I can’t predict how others will react to an idea in a meeting, but I do know I want to be the person who is standing for integrity and balance. I have no idea how treating a child kindly will affect him, but I sure know I want to be good to kids.
My role model in this situation, as in many, is my wife, who recently didn’t hesitate to reach into the window of an overturned SUV to pull out three children, one covered in blood, while their panicked mother tried to hand them out. Although well trained in the dangers of blood-borne pathogens, she didn’t try to predict what would happen if she exposed herself to all that blood; she was too busy being the woman who would save a child’s life if she could.
I’ve never faced a situation like that, but I have had to safe people from suicide, take steps to have someone I loved arrested, drive through an ice storm to get a child to the hospital and show up for work every day at a job that is often discouraging.
I never know what the outcome will be in a given situation, but I know who I want to be, and I take it pretty seriously. You see, Gandhi once told me I have to be the change I wish to see in the world–and I want a whole lot of change.
I believe in doing what I can.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.