Some individuals know who they are. Some do not. Some individuals comfortably ask themselves, "Who am I?" and comfortably, honestly answer the question. Others avoid that question and go to extreme measures to flee its answer.

At any moment, "who I am" is determined by a curious mix of influences combined with "my choice." First, consider the "curious mix of influences."

What is my language or languages? What value system directs me? On what do I base my understanding of good or bad? What everyday factors determine importance? What should a husband be? A wife be? A parent be? What is my work ethic? What is the role of money in a person's life? Or entertainment? Or pleasure? Or people? What is my definition of success?

When a person answers those questions, what is the "curious mix of influences"?

One's culture
One's family of origin
One's present immediate family
One's peer group
One's significant commitments
One's significant involvements

We each combine influences from these sources with personal choice. These influences do not overpower personal choice unless a person allows them to exchange roles with choice.

For personal choice to exercise full significance as I learn who I am, I must realize that my choice is greater than any of those influences in my life. Choice is greater than any combination of those influences, greater than the sum of all those influences.

What is the basic difference between a "victim outlook" and "survivor outlook"? This is the basic difference: the realization that choice has the primary role in deciding who I am.

The victim's mind says, "I have no choice. I am only the collection of influences on my life. Whoever I am, I had no choice. Whatever I do, I have no choice. I must be what I am because the influences in my life make me who and what I am."

The survivor's mind says, "I have a choice, and I will exercise it. I am more than the influences around me. In spite of those influences, I use choice to determine who I am and what I do."

What is the greatest power to support and sustain the power of the individual's choice? God. God transforms victims into survivors. God says, "Choose, and I will help."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 13 October 2002

 Link to next article

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell