12 Words that Changed Everything


Have you ever seen a loved one headed for a train wreck, and you tried to warn them but they wouldn’t listen?

Agonized over just such a situation with several family members, I prayed about what to do. Every instinct in me wanted to rescue them.

As I prayed, these words came to me: “You must allow others the dignity of living with their own choices.”

Wow! I would not have thought of it that way. I believe they were God’s words impressed upon my heart.

I believe that because those twelve words set me free and gave me great peace–which is what God’s true messages always do for me. Also, the tone was gentle, almost sorrowful. As if God knew that living by these words could cause pain, as well as freedom.

I shared these words with a friend, and she remarked, “How kind of God.”

Yes. It was not God saying punitively, “People have to live with the consequences of their choices.”

No.  It was all about allowing them the dignity of living with their own choices.

Which, as I thought about it, is what God does with us. That is what love must do; it will not force itself on another person.

I shared this with a client, and it led to a breakthrough for him.

He had been struggling with negative feelings toward several relatives about the choices they’d made in their lives. All he felt was “yuck” when he thought of family members who seemed to have settled for so little in life.

As he thought about allowing them the dignity of their choices, however, suddenly something shifted for him. He began to consider their choices from their perspectives, rather than his.

His aunt who had never learned to drive got exactly what she wanted in life: security and to be taken care of by others. From her perspective, she’d lived a blessed life.

My client went down the list of his other relatives and their choices, considering things from their perspectives. “The ‘yuck’ went away,” he reported. “I realized I was judging them by my standards, but from their perspectives, their choices led to feeling blessed.”

Gone was the “yuck,” the judgment. My client also was set free.

In my situation, when I let my family members truly feel free to make their own choices, amazingly enough, they seem more inclined to listen to me. I’m still not sure things will work out well, but I no longer feel responsible. I set some choices before them as I saw them, according to the responsibility I truly possess, and it is up to them to make their choices.

Even if they choose the train wreck, I will feel sad but not responsible. I will allow them the dignity of living with their own choices.

Each person’s journey is his or her own, defined by the choices that are made. To interfere is to tread where even God doesn’t seem to go.

Freedom from false responsibility for others is a wonderful thing. . . .

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Hartley Smith

Your insights are very encouraging and I do beieve this is a WORD from the gentle Holy Spirit. It takes away the judgemental attitude that all humans are capable of and subject to. Playing God is a normal and very destructive habit of all humans. Sadly, when we become Christians, this very destructive habit becomes even more evident and more expressive. Allow me a momant to share my heart that is so broken right now. Early this week a dear friend died of an overdose of drugs. I met him 12 years ago. At the time he was a heavy… Read more »


LOVE- WHAT A GREAT ARTICLE! I shared this on FB and also made it my screen saver on every computer, work and home, (3) This is soooo freeing to me! We have 4 children, seven grandchildren and when I think I need to give them advice – I will look at these 12 words and just pray!


Thank you for sharing.

I used to feel sad about these things also, and I used to worry about people. But I no longer see the value in such things. People need to walk their path, on their journey. What looks like a disaster to me, could in fact be exactly what that person needs in their life, to learn from and project them in the direction that is best for them. And when I used to worry, or feel concern, was me saying that I didn’t trust God to handle the situation.


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