Choosing How To React

by Scott Morrice on 10/03/2012

So much has been written about the idea that the life we experience is totally of our own choosing, including choosing how to react.

So many of our self-improvement gurus speak and write endlessly about how our emotional responses to situations, those responses that ultimately cascade and result in some our worst health issues, are actually an option. We don’t have to go there. We can always, and should always, make a choice as to how we are going to respond to a certain event. A fear response brings certain results, a neutral response certain others, and so on.

We can choose to be hurt, we can choose to be negative, we can choose to be happy—I know that this is a very simplistic, but there is, for sure, some truth in that kind of thinking. I have even written about it myself in my Choosing Fear post.

Well, that thinking has been recently used to discuss what I think is another, and very real issue that our world seems to be struggling with.

Andrew Coyne, a well known Canadian journalist and writer, recently authored a very interesting article in the National Post entitled “Outrage Is The Language Of Our Age.”

He writes about many things in that article, but what really caught my attention was his idea that “Rage is all the rage nowadays.” The fact that everybody is getting offended.

What seems to have crystallized his thinking in this regard is the recent outrage being expressed, sometimes very violently, in response to the publication of the Innocence of Muslims video. And although Coyne did speak about the obvious issue of the right to free speech, and the need to defend that right even when it might seem incomprehensible under the circumstances—actually, especially then—he went on to say that the real issue here for him is the act of choosing how to react. The act of choosing is the issue.

In fairness, he doesn’t just focus on the outrage response generated by the Innocence of Muslims debacle. As he notes, you actually see the problem everywhere. He writes:

“It is the stuff of half the news, and 99% of Twitter. A candidate lets a remark slip; a professional athlete mutters an insult; an advertisement plays on a stereotype, and instantly, always, universally, the response is OUTRAGE.”

I think that part of the problem is that our world, with its 24/7 plugged-in connectivity, is getting somewhat desensitized. And so, to get the attention that is wanted, or needed, it seems as if the extreme has become the norm. Nothing else gets noticed.

But, Coyne is right—the other part of the problem lies within us. How we choose to react. And we all can, and should do something about that. When we act react with outrage, when we react with anger, it is because we choose to do so—the situation itself doesn’t cause the reaction. The situation, as Coyne writes, may in fact be objectively offensive—but it is each one of us that chooses to be offended. It is a choice. So Coyne suggests that we need to look at why we have made that particular choice. And he opines that in many cases:

“…it is mostly fake, consciously….or otherwise… loses whatever bona fides it might have claimed. To the extent it is anything more than self-gratification, it is a tactic, a means of imposing our will on others, and as such illegitimate.

…We are not helpless to prevent it.”

I think it is worth thinking about.

You can read Coyne’s whole article here.

I’ll keep you posted.

  • Diana

    I agree…furthermore I believe the “unintended consequences”(another recent trendy expression) of developing the internet, is the media is desperate for readership so they try to “catch individuals attention” by any means possible! Have you noticed that ANY demonstration/opinion which MAY be somewhat interesting, is given a voice now. Our world is really a much better place overall, yet you would never know it by listening to the news. My goodness, as your blog outlined and you quoted Andrew Coyne..the OUTRAGE over trivial stuff is astounding. In the “olden days”, if an individual said something stupid/idiotic, people would shrug and ignore them….societal pressure kept people “in-line”, nowadays the anonymity of the internet allows people to be braver than they usually are AND facilitates the proliferation of garbage & mis-information. MORE information is not necessarily better….

    • scottmorrice

      Yep—I agree with you! Good to hear from you!


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