I received a frantic call from one of my daughters a month or so ago. She was in a desperate state, I was scrambling to figure out what to do (while simultaneously holding fast-ish to the awareness that I need to let her figure these things out). I noticed, somewhere in the middle of that teary call, that she felt unable to make a choice – like she had none; she was almost-completely immobilized. What I also noticed, shortly after getting off of the call, is that I went to the opposite extreme — moving into hyper-drive, fix-it mode, making quick decisions, creating lists, finding more options, eliminating every aspect of  the “unknown” I possibly could.

One outworking of choice is not taking action. Another is being frenetically active (like me).

My point is NOT to determine which is better, which is more sane, which feels wiser or stronger or right. Not at all!

Having agency means admitting — sometimes under a bit of duress — that we DO have choice, that we are not hapless or helpless, that we have the right and ability to make decisions about how we will proceed, what we will do or not do, what we feel, how we will express our emotions, and so much more.

it also means admitting that our choices can (and probably will) mean risk and cost and consequence.

To only look at one side of this equation without the other isn’t helpful. We must hold the complexity of both:

  • I DO have choice. I CAN demonstrate agency.
  • I don’t want to make this choice because…

I know: far easier said than done.

For my daughter: acknowledging that she DOES have choices and can/must make them means that she also has to look at the risks, costs, and consequences of not having made them previously and how she is limited and bound by what’s available to her now, in this moment.

For me, acknowledging that I DO have the choice to step in and help her AND that perhaps the best help is NOT helping means that I have to look at my own patterns, her expectations, and the possibility of disappointment and misunderstanding.

None of this is easy. All of it matters.

Seeing, acknowledging, naming, and honoring all of this feels like growth. it also feels like grace. Tough grace. Gritty grace. But grace, nonetheless.

Worth choosing every time.


[I want to acknowledge that there are definitely contexts in which agency is not available — when true victimhood exists: domestic violence, sexual violence, any number of situations. I am in no way claiming that even in such places we have the power to choose. These are FAR more complex and deserve FAR more wisdom and compassion grace and care.]