Life is full of uncertainties. You can never be sure what each day will bring. We can only control so much and so much is out of our control. But one thing we can control, and that is our reaction to the circumstances each day brings. Others may play a huge role in our lives, but they should never be allowed to be the dominating force in our reaction to life. Personal reactions can leave us happy or miserable much faster than circumstances.

I read the article about the mental approach to cancer and how it affects the recovery rate and or quality of life during the battle, and it brought home to me the value of personal choice. There are so many other areas of life where personal choice and attitude play a pivotal role. Marriage is another prime example. Most failed marriages are a result of personal choices gone awry. By that I mean how a person chooses to respond to the moments of disagreement or challenges to the family brought on by the vicissitudes of life. Every marriage and family faces tough times. Success or failure is not based just on the situation, but more often on how each member chooses to react to the problem.

I can choose to blame others for my situation or I can choose to acknowledge my role in the problem and seek to solve it. I can choose to never forgive myself or others and carry the bitterness around like an anvil. It is hard to swim the channel of success while tied to the heavy block of resentment, blame or bitterness. In the words of a very famous man, “I think myself happy.” How you think may not change your situation, but it can change you to handle the situation.

Politics is another area of life where personal choice is vital. We can choose to vote or not. Simply sniping at others and getting in their face will not change things for the better. Votes are what are counted in elections, not demonstrations. But even at that, simply voting will not bring about a better situation for life. The choice to be personally informed about issues and candidates means much more than simply following party lines or campaign slogans and ads. Becoming aware of how our vote will play out in everyday living also helps. Elections have consequences beyond the voting booth. How we choose to react to election results also matters. Violence and rudeness and uncorroborated accusations do nothing to propagate a better society or a more perfect union.

I listened to a very good funeral sermon the other week. The pastor said that there are three main areas in life that has led to the turmoil in society. He said that we have given up control of our schools, our churches and our families. We have bought into the notion that government knows best how to educate our children and government knows best how to provide for our families. Church has become a place of entertainment rather than a place to develop a better manner of living. He said until we personally choose to become involved and make these three institutions better, we are doomed to always view ourselves as second-class citizens with no control of our lives. It is always someone else who has held us back. It is always someone else who has caused our failure. We bear no responsibility for our plight. With that attitude, we relinquish control of our own destiny. We see no reason to try to better our situation since someone else controls us. We decide we have no choice and are always going to be relegated to mediocrity.

We all have the ability to make personal choices. If we use that ability or not is up to us. How we use it will determine success or failure. You choose what kind of life and country you want for yourself and your children by the exercise of your freedom. Choose wisely and vote intelligently.

Billy P. Long of Benton Harbor has resided in the area since 1972. He is retired as pastor of the Apostolic Tabernacle in Benton Township.