There are some moments in life that you will always remember as being definitive in creating the person you become.
Happy memories doing things you love with people you love. Learning something so fascinating you can’t help but pursue it for the rest of your life. Connecting with someone on such a deep level that you forge a friendship that keeps you laughing until you’re old.
But the moments in life that define us most – the ones that really forge a person’s character – are not the happy ones. Too often, the happy times tend to blur into one warm, sunny montage.
Instead, the more formative times are those we experience when we are faced with decisions that are difficult to make. Decisions that we don’t want to make.
The choice between a dream and a stable income.
The choice to tell someone the truth when you know they don’t want to hear it, when you know it will break their heart.
The choice to break up your family, even though you know it’s for the best.
Choosing to do something that hurts you, or hurts someone you care about, when you know that you need to is one of the hardest things a person can do. Choosing to cause immediate pain for the greater long term good.
Choosing to be selfless.
Choosing to suffer so that others may be happy, may be healthy, may be safe.
Choosing the difficult route when you know it is morally right is one of bravest things a human being can do.
And it is in the moments that you have to confront the person you really are. You have to examine your moral character and figure out just how committed you are to your moral code. You have to look at both paths directly and decide which one you are going to take.
You get to look at yourself and see who you really are.
These difficult decisions are the only real opportunity to know yourself on the deepest of levels.
It’s all very well to believe, in theory, that you are a good enough person to make this kind of decision. To believe that you are up to admitting your mistakes, that you are prepared to be the bearer of bad news even when it means watching your loved ones’ hearts shatter, that you are strong enough to tough out the darkest times if you know the journey will create a brighter world at the other end.
But when you actually have to make those decisions – when it’s not just a hypothetical, when the repercussions for you and everyone around you exist in the real world – you get to know for sure.
You get to meet the real you, whoever that may be.
You may learn something – and it might be beautiful or it might be awful. You might be surprised at who you meet there.
But now you know.
If you don’t like it, you can work towards becoming someone you do like. Or you can accept that you’re not a hero.
If you like who you see, you can be safe in the knowledge that your opinion of yourself is more solid than the fantasy you had before.
Being able to do something that is easy doesn’t make you a good person, even if your easy choices bring about a lot of joy in the world. True strength and courage and heart comes from making those decisions that are not easy, in doing the right thing even when you would rather take the simpler path.
Author Bio – Kirstie Summers is journalist whose day job takes her to all the most interesting places and events in South London. She also freelances for a number of sites and publications, from gaming and literature reviews to creative fiction. She lives in London and spends as much of her free time as possible making the most of being in such a diverse city. She keeps one day a week to herself to swim, relax and keep the stress of the world at bay.