Do Circumstance or Choice Matter in the End?


Place the sentence below on the board.  As your students enter class, ask them to write a paragraph answering this philosophical question.

Are you a victim of your circumstances or a product of your choices?

Once this is done:

   ask for students to discuss their thoughts

   discuss the Teacher Notes

   use a story from local news

Where you can discuss local news articles in terms of was this person / these people a victim of their circumstances or were they a product of their choices.  This doesn’t take long. You can pick positive / sad / negative stories that coincide with your health units.  Within the news stories the students will see the consequences of choices.  The great thing about relatable stories, you emotionally place yourself inside of them and see how you fit / feel.


I don’t like the word VICTIM because it sounds like I didn’t have any choices and/or that I’m an innocent and/or had nothing to do with whatever I am the victim of.

When you see yourself as a VICTIM:

   you automatically have a built in excuse for failure

   it’s always someone/something else at fault

   success is not possible—there are forces out there against you

   you are frozen right where you are in life and there is nothing you can do about it

   you are always angry but never at yourself

   it’s almost impossible to be happy

I prefer the idea of being a PRODUCT. It implies of something that was intentionally built choice by choice.  There was no giving up, there is only unleashing what really drives you.  There is choosing to have positive perspective on life and choosing what gets you closer to your goals.  

When you are a PRODUCT such as Steve Young (NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers (19871994), Hall of Fame and winner of a super Bowl:

   You decide when you are 8th on the BYU team depth chart to prove how wrong people were when they said “you would never be BYU’s quarterback.

   You do what it takes to improve your accuracy, when the BYU football staff evaluation  was “your accuracy just isn’t there”.

   You make being a left handed quarterback an asset when everyone said “there aren’t any great left handed quarterbacks.”

   When year after year, you are the second string quarterback to Joe Montana, you learned everything there was to learn so when your opportunity comes to replace Joe Montana, you replace Joe Montana as the starting quarterback. 

Example of a great story was in an article in my local newspaper.  Three graduate from Cobb Veterans Treatment Court.

One of the graduates was Joyce Brown who “celebrated the culmination of a two-year journey that has taken her to a better place — with an apartment, a job and a drug-free life with a fiancé by her side.” Joyce had a successful 8 year military career.  “She joined the army in 1982 as an administrative assistant, earning the rank of sergeant during her eight years of service. One of the highlights of her military career was serving as the administrative assistant for the commanding general of the United States Army in Europe”.

However, marijuana, alcohol and shoplifting entered her life during her post-military career and landed her in the Cobb Superior Court. Fortunately she was able to entered the Cobb County Veterans Accountability and Treatment Court.  This court was established in 2014 to help veterans overcome personal difficulties, such as mental health issues and/or substance abuse as an alternative to prison.

Joyce’s explained, “I suffered from trauma while I was in the military, and I didn’t process it appropriately.  It just snowballed, and it just kept getting worse and worse, and I wasn’t able to get a handle on it, Brown said.  “I just kept spiraling out of control, and it reached a point where I ended up in the Cobb County justice system, and so I needed help.  And (shoplifting) can become an addiction, because I did it a lot before I got caught.  I’m so glad I don’t’ live like that anymore.  I’ve been working at the VA for almost two years, I’ve been in my apartment for almost two years.  I have a new car.  It’s just amazing, it really is amazing.”

Here is a tough question — When Joyce ended up in the Cobb County Justice System was she a Victim of her circumstances or a Product of her Choices?  This is a tough question because it requires judging someone and their actions.  Sometimes that someone is yourself and our own excuses.


When Joyce graduated successfully from the two year program, was she a Victim of her circumstances or a Product of her choices?


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