You Are Free To Choose Your Actions, But Not Free To Choose The Consequences

Published on: September 1, 2022

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The Consequences Of Karma

“But you are involved in the world, and your actions have consequences for other people, and if you don’t recognize that, then that’s the supreme kind of cruelty. Everyone shares someone else’s fate to some extent.” — Malcolm Bradbury

Think about a recent choice you made which did not turn out as planned? It may have been associated with a personal relationship, a career choice, financial, or related to your health. Did you experience regret and disappointment with the outcome? Do you wish you had more information to have made a better choice? We make hundreds of choices each day, and many of them have to do with circumstances that govern our day-to-day life. These lesser choices may not affect our life if we choose incorrectly because of the risk involved.

But what if our choices can affect us on a greater scale or impact the lives of others? Do we have a moral obligation in such situations? Yes, we are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of those actions. Whilst we have free choice and I’m purposely using ‘free choice’ here instead of free will, we are bound by the consequences of our choices. This is where we make fundamental errors in judgement. We believe our choices do not carry consequences and we are free to choose again, this time more wisely. Expressed differently, we believe we are not bound by our choices. However, our actions are like a boomerang that carries with it karma. So, we must be mindful and respectful of how we choose because the consequences of the karma carry with it a responsibility to act righteously.

This was apparent during the pandemic, where having Covid-19 meant our chances of transmitting the virus increased; especially among the elderly and those immunocompromised. This set up a chain of arguments where people believed they were free to choose whether or not they received a vaccination. They claimed the state could not override their free will to assert authority over their health, even if they suffered adverse effects from the virus or were admitted to hospital. Consequently, the state argued people had a duty of responsibility to other citizens and being unvaccinated was a burden to the hospital system. This followed research which suggested those admitted to the ICU in hospitals were mostly unvaccinated people.

I use this as an example not to take sides but because it is something close to home and relatable. Irrespective of where you live, the pandemic has affected our lives and our ability to choose what is in our best interest has been affected. Do you agree that whilst we are free to choose how to act, we must live by the consequences of those actions? How does that look like in your life and what experiences come to mind? This sentiment is apparent with drink driving or cheating on a partner. Irrespective of whether we are acting consciously or unconsciously, we are bound by the consequences of those choices. Therefore, how do we act in alignment with our highest interest and those of others? This is a tough question and one I’m often asked by clients in my coaching practice. It’s a question that has plagued humankind for centuries. Ultimately, we ought to make choices that do not harm ourselves and extend that ideal to others. In other words, if it is likely to harm us, it will undoubtedly harm other people.

Your Actions Have A Ripple Effect

“If we have a very strong commitment, so that we can trust ourselves and be beacons of trust for others no matter what the circumstance, then we’re protected from suffering the consequences of many actions. We can be protected from that pain.” — Sharon Salzberg

Here’s the thing: we must accept responsibility for our actions, irrespective of our motives. In doing so, we gain authority to correct our actions in the future. We forgive ourselves for our transgression, knowing we acted as best we could, given our level of awareness. You see, sometimes, things happen without consciously choosing the consequences of our actions. For instance, if we cheated on our partner, the ramifications may extend far and wide, meaning we not only hurt our beloved, but our family and friends. Our actions have a ripple effect throughout our life and the lives of those dear to us. We can’t possibly envision how a simple act of infidelity can destroy the lives of those we value. I’m not suggesting ignorance here because sometimes life has a trajectory we can’t expect until the bow is loosed from the arrow. The late American motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, expressed it best when he said: “People would do better, if they knew better.”

I believe this to be a central aspect of this article, in line with developing our self-awareness and personal growth. Thereby, we make informed choices that align with our highest interest. You see, if we act morally and righteously, our actions are less likely to hurt others. This is best expressed by affirming when we act from a place of love, our actions are imbued with the right intentions. Here, I am defining love as the highest order within the universe and not simply romantic love expressed between two people. When we act lovingly, kindly and compassionately, we radiate goodness into the world.

Is this something you’re willing to embrace? Could you adopt this way of being? Are you willing to see that your actions can have a ripple effect and cause disharmony and damage if you choose unconsciously? To say we have free will is an imprecise assumption because if our free will can hurt other people, we are not free in that regard. We are bound by the consequences of our choices and hence why free will is an illusion; albeit a convincing one. Instead, we have free choice with the caveat that our choices carry consequences and we are bound by the weight of those choices, irrespective of what direction they follow.

This is because the universe functions according to non-physical laws, namely The Law of Compensation, which states: “You reap what you sow.” Similarly, the Law of Cause-and-Effect states: “What you put out into the universe may not come back to you at that moment, but its vibrational energy has a ripple effect.” Can you see how these two universal laws are the basis for harmonious living? Considering this, I invite you to return to the choice you made recently that did not turn out as planned. What could you have done differently to create a better outcome? How can you incorporate this understanding into your life from now on? After all, if we are free to choose, we ought to choose from a place of love, knowing our actions are aligned with the greatest good of all.

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