When Other People’s Choices Hurt You
July 2023

“When Other People’s Choices Hurt You,” For the Strength of Youth, July 2023.

When Other People’s Choices Hurt You

Here are some things to remember when other people use their agency in ways that hurt you.

young woman experiencing negative emotions

Illustrations by Shana Keegan

You make tons of choices every day—what to wear, what to eat for breakfast, which friends to hang out with. Agency, or the freedom to choose and to act, is one of the greatest gifts God has given us.

Our choices also have consequences, and sometimes other people’s choices can hurt us. If you’ve ever gotten grounded because of something your brother did, you know just how challenging it can be when other people use their agency in ways you don’t like!

But sometimes there are even worse things that people can use their agency for. Kids at school might bully you, or maybe a family member decides to leave the Church. There are a lot of times when life can seem unfair. After all, you’re trying to use your agency to make the right choices—so why aren’t they?

Of course, you can’t control others. But the good news is that you can change yourself. The strategy is to switch what you focus on and to make good choices even when others don’t.

Here are some things to remember about moving forward with faith, even when other people use their agency in ways that hurt you:

  1. Satan sought to destroy agency (see Moses 4:3). Even though it’s hard to watch others make bad choices, you are also free to make good choices to follow Jesus Christ and become more like Him!

  2. Your actions have an effect. Remember, “We are free to choose, but we cannot choose the consequences.”1 Seeing how other people’s choices affect you can be a good reminder for you to make choices that don’t harm yourself or others.

  3. Everyone is responsible for their own choices (see Doctrine and Covenants 101:78). You don’t have to be burdened with feeling responsible for changing other people or their choices. Instead, you can focus on making positive decisions and following Jesus Christ.

  4. You can choose to be kind. Someone might be mean to you, but you can still be kind to them. It takes courage to be kind to people and forgive them when they’re unkind to you, but that’s exactly what Jesus would do (see Luke 23:34).

  5. You should focus on what you can control. You may not be able to stop your parents from getting a divorce, for example, but you can choose to focus on staying on the covenant path, helping your siblings, learning about healthy relationships, and setting goals for your own future family. Choose to turn your challenges into opportunities to grow and learn.

  6. You have a divine identity and purpose. When you remember your identity as a child of God and refocus on your goals in life, you can see the bigger picture. Focusing on your purpose and seeing that these challenges are only a small part of your life story can help you move forward with faith.

  7. Through faith in Jesus Christ, you can find personal peace, even when things around you aren’t peaceful. President Russell M. Nelson said, “We can feel enduring peace and joy, even during turbulent times.”2 Life is a stormy sea, and it’s easy to wish that God would calm those storms for us. But sometimes instead of making the sea calm, He calms us, the sailors. Turn to Him with your troubles, and He will help you.

young woman

God gave you agency so that you could choose to follow Him and therefore become like Him. As you do, you will naturally learn from your own choices and mistakes and from the choices of others. Even though it is hard to watch people make choices that hurt you, you can learn from those experiences and move forward with purpose, faith, and joy.