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Obligation vs Choice

I had a brief texting frenzy with my son, re: his upcoming college graduation. He had already stated he didn’t want to “walk,” and I had stated, fine, and I’d like to celebrate this achievement, ten challenging years in the making. I proposed a reception for family and his pals on the day of his graduation. And of course, he…

Declined. He said that for now, he had too much to deal with and it’s feeling more like an obligation than a celebration so he’ll get back to me.

Which prompted me to let him know that I’ve never been about obligation, except when I’m responsible for someone’s care as I am with my mom right now. Other than those commitments, he and everyone else should be free to live life the way they want to. Period. I signed off with heart emojis.

This is the season of light and giving and… perceived obligations. You know what I’m talking about: The family dinner, or the obligatory gatherings, or the expected presents under the tree or to your friends/coworkers/relations. All of which can make this the season for stress and busyness, and for some, deep loneliness. Yet, does it have to be?

No. I don’t think so. So how do we know what is an obligation and what is a choice?

For me, obligations are for :

1. What I signed up for. Literally. If I made a commitment in word or writing, it is in my integrity to follow through on that commitment. This includes appointments made and things I volunteered to do or show up for.

2. The people who are in my care. My elderly mom is there: she needs more and more facilitation and help. But, as her world gets smaller and her needs greater, the obligation part is getting trickier and trickier. I can’t be there for her 24/7. So I ask for help when I can so I can keep this commitment to the best of my ability.

3. What is in my heart to do or give or commit to. I should feel a definite “Yes!” to what I commit to. Therefore, this does NOT include what I need a whole lot of convincing to do.

Which brings me to the choices I am asked to make:

1. Choices made out of shame or guilt are obligations in perception only. True obligations need no shaming or guilting.

2. Expectations can be hidden time bombs of obligation. Common themes include the time honored, “That’s the way we’ve always done this.” or “You HAVE to do this, or I/we will be disappointed.” Most of the time, though, there is no “have to.”

3. The voices in my head: It takes a bit of doing to release myself of the obligations others in my life had put on me. The voices of “You have to” and “You must or else there will be dire consequences and/or harsh judgement” are often louder than the quieter voices of “This your choice.” or “Do what’s in your heart to do.” or “This is not a have to.”

In this season of light in the darkness, I suggest we choose to commit to that which promotes kindness and peace to others— and especially to ourselves. Flying around with a ton of obligations is so wearing on us earth angels. Our wings were not meant to carry that much load. So, take it easy, ok?

blessings and love,


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