Recognizing choice

I couldn’t sleep. I found myself on my living room couch at 2:00 a.m. faced with the choice of watching either TMZ or infomercials. I had a choice. TMZ it was.

Their in-depth reporting that night included a brief clip of Michael Irvin, the former NFL wide receiver, who had recently appeared on the cover of the gay magazine OutIn the magazine article, Irvin talks about his love and support for his gay older brother. When the TMZ camera operators ambushed Irvin, he gave them an eloquent quote.  He told them that God doesn’t let individuals choose everything. We can’t choose our family, our hair colour, or the colour of our skin, but God does let us choose our companions. Irvin says that, if God lets each of us choose companions, who are we as humans to dictate who should be with whom?

Let me be clear, I do not think sexual orientation is a choice. I think it is one of those things gifted to us at birth, like our family and our hair colour, and we fumble through life one way or another working with what we’re given. However, I do think that Irvin’s observation can lead to some peace around the matter.

Whether or not you believe God, or a God, to be responsible for choice as Irvin does (maybe it’s just nature having its way with us?), the fact is that there are things we can choose and things we can’t. Irvin hits on a key point: when we try to tell other people who they should love, we are trying to control something beyond our control. We are trying to make a choice we have not been given the authority to make. The result is stress, frustration and conflict. None of us like it when others try to impose their will on us, right? If we can recognize what is ours to dictate and what is not, peace and serenity follow.

Participants in 12-step programs find solace in this concept every time they repeat The Serenity Prayer.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Irvin’s observation encourages people to recognize when choice is theirs, when it’s not, and  to let go of choices that are not theirs to make. May serenity follow.

The next time I can’t sleep, I might choose to watch TMZ again. After all, I don’t really need a Slap Chop.

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