Circumstance is an interesting word, with a great deal of depth and breadth. There are so many questions to explore to be able to comprehend its meaning.
For example, do circumstances occur out of the blue, or can we create them? Should you ask what the circumstance is, or is it more appropriate to ask what are the circumstances? Can you control them, or are you at their mercy? Are circumstances good or bad, or neither good nor bad? Do they exist internally or externally?
Do we have any choice, or are we stuck with circumstances as they exist? Just what are necessary circumstances? How about extenuating circumstances? Do you encounter circumstances, or do you put up with them?
What about unusual circumstances? Since they are unusual, it infers most circumstances are normal, or are they?
How are circumstances defined?
So many questions! At least we have dictionary definitions. If only they were of more help.
The Oxford Dictionary's definition of circumstance is: Circumstance (noun) - a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action.
Meriam Webster's definitions are similarly nondescript: Circumstance (noun) - a state or end that seemingly has been decided beforehand - something that happens - the uncertain course of events
Synonyms and antonyms provide a little more clarity.
A few synonyms such as accident, chance, hazard, and luck lean toward circumstances being beyond our control. Some near antonyms such as intent, purpose, design, plan, and scheme also lean toward circumstances being out of our control. Yet are they? Well, like many of the contradictions contained in this word, it depends
Where do we find the answers? The simplest explanation I have uncovered so far is most circumstances already exist, and we create future circumstances through our actions.
Let's turn to quotes from some wise people to help us better understand existing and future circumstances.
Circumstances appear to exist everywhere in life. Some people think circumstances are beyond our control and that we must deal with them, while others believe in some control and extend their definition to the self, to who we are.
Since circumstances already exist, they provide a starting point to move forward in life.
"Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start." Nido R Qubein
While circumstances do not define us, they reveal who we are.
"Circumstance does not make me, it reveals me." William James
We cannot change what is, but we can choose what we do as we face the circumstances.
"Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power." Benjamin Disraeli
Although circumstances already exist, we can exert power and influence over them.
"A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you." Joyce Meyer
You are a human being with free will, so you can make your own choices rather than what circumstances demand of you.
"You can't let your current circumstances dictate what kind of choices you make." Kelly Clark
While you may or may not have taken some part in creating the existing circumstances, they do not define who you are. You have options and possibilities to explore, and because of them, you can do what is needed.
"You are not your circumstances. You are your possibilities. If you know that, you can do anything." Oprah Winfrey
Your attitude about life, including your happiness, highlight who you are.
"Circumstances will never determine your amount of happiness. Circumstances only highlight who you already are." Dan Miller
While existing external circumstances are fixed, internal circumstances are subject to change.
"We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them." Epictetus
To be mature and responsible for who you are and what you do is something only you control. Change yourself, and you can change future circumstances.
"You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of." Jim Rohn
You are not a product of your circumstances, but you are a product of the decisions you make about them.
"I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions." Stephen Covey
We have at least two options. We can let circumstances run our lives or master them. The choice is ours.
"We can let circumstances rule us, or we can take charge and rule our lives from within." Earl Nightingale
Should you find difficult circumstances in your career, you have options available to you.
"Don't allow circumstance to hold you back- even negative ones. You don't have to let your circumstances define you. You can define yourself, and the best way to find yourself is through education. "Mary Hatwood Futrell
When you are thoughtful and take action, you take part in creating circumstances in your future.
"If you're proactive, you don't have to wait for circumstances or other people to create perspective expanding experiences. You can consciously create your own." Stephen Covey
Let Emerson's advice help you determine whether you are a shallow or strong person.
"Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances: it was somebody's name, or he happened to be there at the right time, or it was so then, and another day it would have been otherwise. Strong men believe in cause and effect." Ralph Waldo Emerson
Additional thoughts about circumstances
Circumstances can be big or small, near or far, short or long, all at the same time!
Think about a big circumstance you may find yourself in - marriage. You have created a multitude of circumstances by choosing to marry. Marriage is a big decision that creates both short term and long-term consequences for your life. There is the immediacy of romance and intimacy, which can last longer with the right effort, but tends to wax and wane. Then there is the impact of children and the long-term consequence of them in your life.
Looking at a smaller, less consequential circumstance, let's say you find yourself getting a speeding ticket. It may seem like a big deal at the time, but its consequences are minor in an average person's life. It makes an immediate impact that will become distant in the future. In other words, in the short term, your insurance costs may increase; however, the ticket should have little effect in the long run unless you keep speeding and getting caught!
"Wise men put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances." Ralph Waldo Emerson
The great thing about circumstances is they can help us understand our capabilities as human beings and how we have more control than we realize.
"Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter." Benjamin Disraeli
By looking at circumstances as current and future, you gain a different perspective of the word. We have little control over our current circumstances, although what we did may have contributed to them. And we can make choices on how things occur in the future, creating different circumstances in our lives and the world.
The best wisdom on the subject is to deal with current circumstances and shape those in the future.
In the end, you have a choice. You can decide what you do with the circumstances you find yourself in. You get to choose who you want to be, despite the circumstances that surround you. One final quote full of wisdom from a life well lived by the 1st First Lady of our country. Please take time to consider her message carefully.
"I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition." Martha Washington