In the United States we really like the idea that things are either good or bad. My personal belief is that we get locked in to these “either or” ways of thinking because it is easier than trying to process information. Good or bad, Republican or Democrat, lazy or hardworking, all provide shortcuts in our mind for us to classify people and decisions. In Packing Light, Allison Vesterfelt writes “sometimes there are not right and wrong decisions. There are just different choices with different benefits, different ramifications, and different baggage.” This quote unpackages so much in my mind of the hold-ups that I have when looking at other people. When you watch mass media, politicians are portrayed as good or evil (or often evil and more/less evil) and their decisions are often criticized as either good or bad for society and the country. It is so difficult to imagine how many decisions go into a single piece of legislature, and all of the different benefits and ramifications that go along with a single decision in any piece of legislature. After reading this quote and trying to stop seeing things in the black or white, I have noticed how often it is that we take a mental short cut and describe something as being either one thing or the other. Vesterfelt’s quote helps me realize that we cannot simply ascribe categories to any one thing. Looking at something as an “either/or” limits your understanding of that thing or person. Our lives are very complex, and the decisions we make come from the web of complexities that we see our lives and choices through. For an outsider a decision may appear to obviously be right or wrong, but we have to remember that in that situation we are filtering that decision through our own perception without having and vision of the pressures and factors that went into the decision for the other person.
By simply accepting that nothing is either right or wrong, and that nothing fits into the duality and dichotomy that our mind seems to love, we can take a softer position on other people, our own actions, and the composition of the world. When you try to analyze something to understand what part of it is a plus or a minus, you not only gain a deeper understanding of the world, but you stop making hateful decisions, and can build compassion in your life. We all make decisions with some of them being easy, difficult, great, or not ideal, and by not berating ourselves and others for our decisions but by trying to be mindful of why we or others made decisions we can broaden our vision, and understand others better.
With Vesterfelt’s quote, the core of her idea is that we can spend too much time worrying about our own decisions and become stuck in a routine that rewards inaction versus action. When you are so caught up worrying if the next decision is the right decision, you get to a crucial point where the decision must be made, and it is easier to take not action and remain in the status quo. This is where Vesterfelt was building an awareness of her decisions so that she could avoid classifying any decision as right or wrong. She began to see that any decision she made would have both positive and negative consequences, but that the only way for her to grow is by embracing the consequences and fully applying herself to whatever decisions she makes.