I picked up this quote back in my senior year in high school while reading Hamlet for class. When I got to college, I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall above my bed. It’s on my facebook page right now.
This quote has always spoken to me about the importance of perspective, responsibility and choice. It says to me that the way I see something – the emotions I associate with it, my analysis of what is going on, the assumptions I make about motivations – is a choice. If one of my kids says something which is unintentionally rude, I can chose to laugh or be offended. Sometimes I might have a good reason to be offended, but if I can, I’m going to laugh. It’s a choice. And that extends from the biggest things to the smallest things. I can choose how to view things rather than just go with random gut reactions.
This quote is said sacastically to a couple of theives – “stealing’s not wrong because you’ve decided that it’s not wrong” sort of thing. This reminds me that I can choose wrongly. I may see someone’s behaviors as innocent and be burned. Or even more insiduously, I may see my own behaviors as innocent when really, they are not. This reminds me not to kid myself. And not to let anyone else kid me either.
And finally, this quote reminds me that I’m not responsible for how other people choose to view their lives – including that part of their lives which include me. Which is no excuse to treat people badly, of course. But often in the normal course of life, people can become displeased with you for reasons of their own choosing. If someone chooses to assume the worst about me or take an apocolyptic view of the events of my life, that’s their choice.