The Lesser of Two


It is a phrase we hear often, growing up in The United States:

“Choose the lesser of two evils.”

when you are faced with two particularly awful options.

Yes, I quite understand that both choices are evil in the end (or seem evil) but, why? Why not just make no choice whatsoever, which is another choice, and choose no evil? Can’t you just choose good, instead?

What if that choice isn’t so clear to you? What if you weighed the outcomes and couldn’t see a good one?

What if you do choose evil, what makes you choose one over another? One is not quite so bad, perhaps?
When I was young, my mother’s attentions to us weren’t pleasant. When she wasn’t beating us, we were forced to clean for hours, or locked outside of the house because she forgot we were outside. She slept, she didn’t engage or she engaged too much (violent hysterical fits). Sometimes we were fed, sometimes not. We were grimy, dirty, and starved for proper parental attention.

One day, she screwed up. She did something stupid. She harmed us in some sort of way, and they noticed. Real, caring adults from school.

So a wonderful woman came to school and interviewed us about our life at home. We, my brother and I, lied to them. We would admit nothing and after a few half-hearted visits where we convinced them we were smart, clumsy, carefree children, they left us alone.

After all, if a child won’t admit to abuse, unless see by someone else willing to speak and badger causing people to take action, nothing happens.

But let’s go back. Why did we lie?

Perhaps, you think, we were scared of our mother’s wrath? Scared of what she may know we said while interviewed by these social workers? Or maybe we were scared of getting into trouble? Young kids can be taught authority figures will punish you if you tell a secret an adult is hiding.

No, I’m afraid it much more simple, or perhaps complex, than that.

We knew kids who lived out of black trash bags. Like what ever they owned was stored in these bags. They went from house to house with this bag, sometimes living with nice people, kind people. Sometimes they were placed with strict or stern people. Sometimes, they were placed with indifferent monsters that ignored them save for a check, or did things to them in the night when everyone should be sleeping. They never had a home. They were in essence stored just like their things – as worthwhile as trash.

It’s the fear you know.

Sometimes, we choose the horrors we understand because the horrors of uncertainty are much more frightening.

After all, I knew how to navigate our mother. My father was pretty kind to us and if we stayed out of her way when he was working – we were safe.

And sometimes, she could be heartbreaking wonderful.

Yes, it led to a pretty unfortunate childhood. But I could imagine a worse one. I saw worse ones.

You can become comfortable in the pattern that fear, loneliness, depression, anger – can create. You know the paths, you live the signs. It’s what you know.

It becomes safe.

The lesser of two evils, the evil you can live with.

The trick, the trick is to let go of being comfortable. To allow yourself the possibility of better. Yes, foster care could have been potentially the worst choice.

But what if it hadn’t been? What if it had changed us for the better?

What if? What if you let go of the fear and doubt you know and take a chance? Perhaps, you won’t attract another evil.

A leap, a hope, a chance out of the dark. Could you be brave?

Perhaps you could attract good, and make new comfortable paths to travel.

Take a chance at better.

Be safe and courageous on that new road, choose to not assume anything else will be worse. Don’t always expect evil, hope.

You can make new paths, you can. It is in you! It’s worth possible discomfort to face the new unknown! Fear is not all there is!

After all, “Fortune favors the bold!”

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