What’s Your Choice? by Karen Leslie Hernandez


Choices.

Many times choices are difficult. Some of the time choices are easy.

I have had a rough year. Probably one of the most difficult yet in my adult life.

I began this year with an offer of a job, where I would have used every bit of my knowledge and education, which included a move to Dallas. That job, due to fear and discrimination, ended as quickly as it started. Now, 12 months later, I am job secure and I still live where I began 2018.

Aside from job security, I have been dealing with a serious incident of verbal abuse, from someone in my family, who should never do to anyone, what they did to me. It has been devastating, debilitating, and incredibly difficult, to say the least.

I have also been thinking about my choices of men. That seems to always be disastrous for me. I do not choose wisely. And I am uncertain as to why.

Last, I have been thinking about my choices of whom to include in my life as friends, and whom I must not include. This particular choice is not easy.

The fact is, I have a choice. We have a choice. Always.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my choices the last year. I chose to apply to that job. I didn’t choose to have it turn out as it did. The people who hired me chose that. I chose to keep forging away, and now, I am doing well. Yet, that initial choice was so harmful to my spirit in the end.

Next, I chose to let this person in my family continue to abuse me, to let it escalate, even though I set boundaries, and now I am here, wondering what choice I should make next. Do I never speak to this person again, knowing they only have a short time left on this planet? Or, do I set boundaries, knowing they will abuse again, and see them? I am not sure. One thing I am certain of – I cannot take being verbally abused by this person ever again. It is too painful. As is the choice I must make.

The choice of whom to have in my life when it comes to friendship is rough. People that I love, yet sit on such a different political and religious spectrum than I do, just don’t fit into my life anymore. They say they love me, but, I have changed too. Honestly, I don’t think they like me. And, honestly, I don’t care that they don’t like me. I am different now, from when I was 18 or 19, of course. I like me. Funny thing is, I may love these friends, but, I am not sure I like them, for their choices harm others.

Now, for my choice of men. My last relationship was a disaster. Three years, full of signs I ignored, I fell in love with a Salvadorian man that lied and told me: he wasn’t married, he was separated, he lived with a family that couldn’t let me visit, his wife has cancer and that is why he still lives with her, his wife has cancer again, he is going to El Salvador for the holidays so he can’t see me, he can’t spend the night because of his dog, the house is up for sale because his wife is selling it, the pictures of him with family on holidays that were posted recently on social media were old and just posted for memories, he doesn’t have another phone, he’s spending Thanksgiving with his Sister in Law, he lives with his relatives now, he is working today/tonight/tomorrow so he can’t see me, he is “sick,” he is not lying. I think there’s probably more lies, but, you get the gist. I admit, I made a choice to stay with him and his lies. I follow my heart, rather than my quick mind. I would rather believe someone is like me, never lying, always honest. Than not. My bad.

Choices. We all have the ability to make choices. So, why do we not always choose wisely? I like to pride myself on my emotional intelligence. Yet, sometimes, my choices are just terrible.

One thing I have realized, or more, admitted to myself and now out loud, is that I rarely ask God for guidance in my choices. Could it be that this raging feminist who doesn’t need anyone in her life, could, in actuality, need God to help her make wiser choices? I believe so. Perhaps I should try it. Give up my perceived notion of control and make a choice to let God in more. This sounds like a wise choice.

I totally believe that God enables us to land where we are supposed to land. Yet, we also have free will. Or, is it pre-destination? I guess it depends on where you fall in the theological spectrum. Regardless though, we have a choice. It seems also, as I get older, choices become so much more difficult. You would think as we become wiser, it would be the opposite. For me, at least, it’s not.

In all this confusion, anger, bewilderment and hurt, I personally make a choice to first and foremost, never do anyone any harm. That is a choice I make.

I admit I struggle, as all humans do, in naming people, places, lashing out when someone hurts me – but, really, that choice leaves anyone and everyone feeling empty, more angry, more hurt, more everything negative. So, why make that choice?

I consistently wonder, if we really do have free will, then why would God give us this ability to make our own choices, when in so many cases, we aren’t able to handle it? If it is all pre-destined, then do we make these choices because we are supposed to? And, why would God make choices that harm us?

It’s really all a mystery.

I do know this. My choices have good and bad consequences. My choices can and do harm people – be it intentionally, or not. Yet, I also know this.

I work very hard to choose good.

To choose right.

To choose light.

To choose love.

Even in all the choices made by others that hurt me, I choose love.

I write that shaking my head and sighing. Because, let’s get real. Choosing love isn’t easy when you are hurting, or, when you recognize the harm to others caused by a choice.

In reality, I believe God chose me.

To live here, now.

To do good now.

To love now.

All the other choices, it seems, are up to me. And you. And all of us.

Choices. Many times choices are difficult. Some of the time, choices are easy.

I wonder… what’s your choice?

 

 

Karen Leslie Hernandez is a theologian and interfaith activist. With a focus in Christian-Muslim understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including the Women’s United Nations Report NetworkThe Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, the Interfaith Observer, and she is the only Christian to have published an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. Some of her past gigs include designing and teaching an Interfaith Dialogue workshop with Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, as well as spending three years working with United Religions Initiative in several different positions. As an Over-Achiever, Karen has not one, but two theological master’s degrees – one from Andover Newton Theological School, the other from Boston University School of Theology. She did her BA at Wellesley College. Karen currently lives in San Francisco, works at St Anthony’s, teaches workshops throughout the Bay Area, is an Ambassador with Parliament of the World’s Religions, is pursuing her Doctor of Ministry at Claremont School of Theology, and she is also a certified domestic violence advocate.

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Categories: abuse, Faith, Family, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, God, Relationships, Seasons

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6 replies

  1. Dear Karen, I have been there too. For me, the problems stemmed from my mother telling me “your father loves you, he just doesn’t know how to show it.” That may have been partly true, but the part she didn’t say was, “right now your father is treating you badly.” This failure on her part led to me not knowing the difference between love and being treated badly. As for my father, I made the decision to wish him well and to stay in touch through letters or email but never to give him the chance to be mean to me in person again. This was not easy but I do not regret it. Alice Miller helped me a lot to understand the difference between love and abuse and at some point, I did learn to be able to tell the difference. So there is hope! Wishing you well.

    Liked by 3 people

    • So and so loves you, he she just doesn’t know how to show it… this was one of the most destructive mantras in my family life… no wonder I fell into abusive relationships again and again- What I got out of that one is that love is about tolerating being treated badly – and then I blamed myself. Talk about a crazymaker…I have distanced myself from my two sons because neither is willing to treat me with respect or decency. Oh, the lies that bind us to unhealthy relationships are legion.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for being so honest about your struggles. I wish you much love in your own heart for yourself in the new year (y deseo lo mismo para mí – and wish the same for me) Un brindis – a toast, Rebecca

    Like

  3. Thank you, Karen, for your vulnerability; sending you a warm embrace of compassion – and gratitude for how you shared, in the end, a simple, honest list of choices. Beautiful. I’m sorry for your pain and difficulties; may peace and blessings enfold you.

    I’ve made many choices that revealed themselves as mistakes, except … within those choices was tremendous growth. Does that mean they weren’t mistakes at all? Hmmm. Like you, I often ponder both/all aspects of choices past and present, seeking to at the very least learn and grow from them. I have found, though, that choices I made as a single person were much easier – and I accepted the repercussions more easily – than those made with my beloved husband; finding balance with another person is certainly a greater challenge, for me.

    Your sharing about the verbal abuse from a family member is familiar and I empathize with your hurt. Until four years ago, I always chose to live my adult life several thousand miles away from my parents and brothers – because of the emotional pain I felt when in their company most of the time. Visits were once a year. But, ten years ago, my father died and my mother has gone downhill emotionally as well as physically; then, one of my brothers became unable to continue providing her with regular support. In that instant, I chose to move to within a two-hour drive, but still strive to limit our interaction. Driving home from Christmas Day dinner, my husband was a treasure in his sympathy and understanding; he couldn’t help but ask “why does your mother continue to belittle you?” We talked, but ultimately, without a clear answer. For right now, I choose to visit … albeit infrequently … trying to find a balance between self-care and familial compassion. I have no answers. Again, thank you – your post resonated deeply.

    And, to end, one of my favorite quotes: “Life is Change. Growth is Optional. Choose Wisely.” by Karen Kaiser Clark (in a lovely little book about a tree)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear you. We can’t change the other, we can only change our self, and the choices we make. We can love someone and not like them. We may understand these things intellectually, but it can take years and years and years to really get it. And to let go.
    For the record, I chose you. So very glad to call you friend. Carry on, bright spirit!

    Like

  5. Choice – making involves making mistakes and learning from them I hope… I feel for you with deep compassion because I have been where you are for most of my life.

    Like

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