As children we are not allowed adult choices because we are incapable of understanding the consequences of our choice. We allow that even when a child makes an adult choice, that they are not held to the same level of responsibility for that same reason. Once a child is considered an adult, they gain the right to make those choices, something we often celebrate and run towards with wild abandon. What is not often discussed, is the consequences which are now married to those choices. In other words, you are free to make adult choices, but you will now also be dealing with and be responsible for, the adult consequences.
My grandmother tried to drum into me that we are not free to do whatever we want, because what we do impacts the people around us. She carried an assumption that people would care about the other people around them or that they should feel a responsibility to them, to not drag them into their troubles. Lately it has seemed more to me that people are not only wanting the right to make choices that are destructive and thoughtless, they are also wanting to control the consequences of their actions which often results in them attacking the people’s reactions to their actions.
People have become used to having a chance at avoiding legal and financial consequences to their actions but they are not so great about dealing with the emotional aftermath. People are impacted by one another. What we do causes all kinds of feelings, raises all kinds of demons and issues for them to deal with. We cannot then control how they feel or think about the event. We don’t get to dictate their response.
It takes time to sort out difficult situations. It takes time to heal. And while it may seem that the pain of the bystanders is nothing compared to the principals …it is very real for them. We just have to be a little more sensitive about the impact we have on the people who love us.