Sunday’s Wisdom #383: The Power of Choice

“Power just makes a person more of themselves, right?”
– Major Lemar “Battlestar” Hoskins, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Season 1, Episode 4, “The Whole World is Watching”

When Lemar says this, he’s talking to his best friend and comrade, John Walker. Walker is questioning if he should take the super serum he secretly acquired, which would make him a super soldier like Captain America, whose mantle the US government gave him. He hesitates, but not for long, partially encouraged by Lemar’s trust in him. He very shortly shows the entire world that he is not a saint. He has tried to appear to be one, and perhaps even tried to be one, but he falls far short in reality.

There is some truth to what Lemar say, but not entirely. It is true that power will often change a person, but that change isn’t so simple as simply making them somehow more of what they are. It may unveil who they are at their core, as inhibitions fall away like a veil and the fires of pride and ambition stir up all of their desires and appetites, all at once. But within that maelstrom of the world, things are stripped away as well, sometimes even the very things which they once built their entire identity on, their deepest values and strongest supports.

It is not uncommon for one newly filled with a power the likes of which they have never known to make the mistake of thinking that they don’t need those old sources of strength. That can sometimes be a bit like thinking one doesn’t need the ground anymore just because one has learned to fly. But since when has the foolishness of something prevented someone from doing it?

Point being: there is not really a limit to how much a person can change.

Power can turn a person into a version of themselves that scarcely resembles who they were before. So can adversity, loss, pain, and suffering. Each of these can twist and warp a person – any person – practically without limit. Fortunately, these changes don’t always have to be bad. People can become more humble as well as more prideful, more loving as well as more hateful, or more firm in their resolve as well as having their resolve break.

And these are not the only things that can change a person. Love can change a person. Compassion, charity, and kindness can change people. Forgiveness. Trust. Hope. All things that can be experienced can change someone. Indeed, by very definition, experience changes us. It changes us from children into adults, from one version of ourselves into another. That is what our experiences do. It is impossible to stay entirely the same forever. It is merely a question of who or what we transform into.

That is the power of our choice.

Something terrible happens to us? We choose to either become bitter, or dedicate our lives to helping others who also suffer.

We are given a merciful gift exactly when we most need it? We can choose to spit on it for the sake of our pride, or to accept it with gratitude and pay it forward.

We find ourselves suddenly more powerful than we have ever been before? We choose whether we become our worst, most selfish selves, or maintain our decency and humility as we do good works.

Experience is the fire which alters us, but choice is the hand which shapes us.

Choice is our power, and what ultimately defines who we are.

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