Choices in the life of a person cannot be underestimated. Mature and developed persons have made choices in their lives, and continually do so. They take great discerned risks. However, underdevelopment is a result of non-choices. Choices are done in a flash, in a brief moment, but commitment, which is one of our formal choices, plays over a longer period of time. Thus, every commitment involves a choice.
First, choices form us into something. They individuate and define who we are. We become who we are by choosing. Our selfhood is shaped by the many decisions we have taken.
When we were young, we were amorphous. We were like a cloud that did not have a permanent shape. We tried to find our identity apart from our parents. We experimented on certain behaviors to find whether it was akin to our self. We adopted the behavior we thought fitted the way we knew ourselves. In a way, our adolescent years were chaotic. We were neither here nor there. We could say that in the period of indecision, our personhood was vaporous.
When we began deciding what course to take in college, who to be present to for a longer period of time (like our intimate friends and deep relationships), what talents and abilities to develop (like the arts, sports or other interests), our chaotic self acquired a certain form. Among the multiple options and experiences, we began to develop a concept of who we were, and we took to heart which among our various experiences affirmed our self-concept. This was the time we began to say with a sure tone, “I am a musician”, “I am a swimmer”, “I love books.”
Second, our choices make us into someone. They make who we are stand in the foreground, and our unique spirit is enfleshed. Thus our choices express our self-understanding, and at the same time, make our self-understanding as the basis for our choices. We understand who we are through our decisions, and our decisions make it possible to understand our identity.
On the other hand, there are people who just play life “by ear.” Bahala na (“Whatever happens”) is what Filipino non-choosers say. And thus, these players-by-ear are puzzled about who they are, what they like doing, and thus are afraid to commit. They do not want to define their relationships, because they cannot define themselves. They are scatter-brained. They do not know where they belong to.
And if we have been loathsome to the history of slavery, the present day and age — with multiple distractions, various recreational activities, and a wide range of possibilities — have developed a new form of slavery: the prison of indetermination.
Sometimes I pity those who are in a “complicated” relationship. They do not know who they are to their beloved. Why? Because their beloved do not want to be defined by a relationship. An “anything-goes” relationship is non-committal; forever is not something to take on seriously. And those who are in a relationship in view of a forever will find loving the amorphous and vaporous beloved difficult to be with.
Finally, our choices make us valuable to everyone. They make God’s continual creation possible. We participate in God’s creation and re-creation of the universe. Through many decisions, we have invented many machines and gadgets that make living comfortable and easy. History has moved and developed because of the many decision-makers in the past and in the present. We have to transform and move the world into kinetic energy. By not choosing, everything remains just potential.
What has this to do with our relationships?
Our relationships involve choices. The act of choosing is an act of freedom.
When we choose in a relationship, we narrow down our choices into someone specific and definite. In a profound way, the purpose of freedom is not to have many choices, but to narrow our options until it becomes just one. Take for example our greatest saints and heroes: their lives have been marked by a specific commitment to which all of their lives have been offered. Some have honorably died for them. They are, in humanity’s memory, someone worth remembering.
When we become mature adults, we begin to settle down with a specific someone, in a particular career, with a definitive lifestyle as a family person. For those who choose the religious and celibate life, we choose to take our vows, live with a specific community, with a particular mission and a rule of life as stipulated by the founder of our Order. Either way, there are behaviors we adapt that is faithful to our vocations. Life has it that we can’t take the whole of the pie.
Commitments involve life-time decisions. Choices have to be made consciously and responsibly to keep these commitments. We become a valuable someone who can do something equally important. We also become significant to another.
Why? Because we believe that human beings have the capacity to choose. It is formally what freedom is: choosing what is good; living the loftier ideals in which our civilization are founded on. These are the principles of love, life, hope, peace, forgiveness etc. There are higher values that govern our lives. Commitments will go beyond what we feel, what we like doing, what we are used to. We can decide to forego our basic needs and wants in situations when they endanger a commitment we have entered into. Why can we forego or move beyond what we feel? Because we are not animals.
If our “commitments” are temporary, then they are not commitments. If we commit ourselves with a view that we can bail out when things get tough and rough, then our lives will go down the drain of taking an amorphous and vaporous state. We return to nothing.
And there are many who choose to be nothing. They die like grass: they are forgettable.