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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Tough Choices: The Fork in the Road

Sometimes I like to look at tough situations from then point of view of a simple story. Long ago I did that with this mouse story, and now I'll do it with this fork in the road story. To look at the big picture of a situation sometimes helps us to drill down to the important details of a specific event or situation. That can shed light on what you are experiencing or what you should do.

There was a fork in the road.

One path was grassy, sunny, and full of flowers. It was a beautiful and peaceful path, but to follow you had to agree not to discuss a troubling situation.

The other path was rocky, gray, and challenging, but to travel that path you were welcome to discuss what seemed like challenging news.

At the fork, it was very attractive to turn a blind eye to words that were hurtful and harmful to others especially since the words didn't involved you. "Hey that's their problem," the walker thought as she contemplated taking the less arduous, more beautiful path. "Why do I have to defend others, I'm doing fine," she assured herself.

But then as she surveyed the routes, she imagined the route far beyond what she could see. Holding in hurtful information for a long time would interfere with her walk eventually--hurtful news doesn't stay silent over time, eventually that news rises and comes into the open. Plus to discuss challenging information earlier than later serves to solve problems rather than make those problems greater. And wouldn't she want others to stand by her if she was the focus of the challenging news and information?

That's when she knew she had to take the more difficult path and endure the current disdain, pain and suffering related to discussing the challenging information. It's not easy to speak up, question, and discuss challenging information. It's far easier to bury that which is uncomfortable and not related to one's self and move down the pretty path, but in the long run, doing what's right matters.

As she took the first difficult step on the rocky path, she wondered if she took the right path--who was she to think that she could endure the harsh consequences of this open difficult path. Was she right in her decision--a decision that few others were taking as most were headed down the sunny path gleefully laughing together, happy not to bear the burden of the challenging events.

The more she walked, the more she wondered and asked these questions:
  • How could people think it was okay not to discuss the challenging facts and information?
  • Where did the information come from in the first place?
  • How could people turn a blind eye to the information?
  • Was she the only one who interpreted the words as troubling, hurtful, and inappropriate--did others truly think it was okay to share such information without discussion and follow-up actions?
  • Was she missing something?
The route was lonely and dark. The steps difficult and hurtful. She thought more and more remembering times in the past when she had spoken her truth and received similar treatment. There was a family matter once long ago that she had spoken about only to receive a difficult response, however now, far beyond that event, there were no regrets for speaking up. The only regret is that she didn't speak up more and with greater strength and action. 

Similarly there was the time she fretted over advocating for a student--she knew that her advocacy would result in harsh treatment, but she knew it was the right thing to speak up and she did. The change wasn't all that she wished for, but at least there was change, change that was better than if she had stayed silent.

She remembered a number of times when people had spoken up to her too--times when their words had a dramatic impact on her actions resulting in positive discourse and change.

It's often a lonely, arduous path to speak up for what you believe is right and good. Many turn a blind eye and deaf ear when troubling events happen if those events don't impact their lives right away--they don't stand up and speak up for others and they don't realize that next time, they might be the ones who are disregarded, demeaned, or disrespected. Who will speak up in defense of their rights and reputation if that happens?

In the best of circumstances there is an open environment and avenues for talking about the tough decisions and situations--a welcome platform for entertaining the good as well as the challenging with the focus on betterment, collaboration, doing what's best with the mission of a family, organization, or team in mind.

There will always be forks in the road, and the decisions you make when you reach those forks will always matter.

Have you ever stood at the fork in the road? What did you choose and why did you make that choice? What were the results like?