"I still vividly recall when I first read Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? by John Powell. When I got to page thirty-eight, I was stunned to read a description of my most common response to the behavior of the significant people in my life. Powell was walking down a New York City street with his journalist friend, Sidney Harris. They stopped at a newspaper vendor's shack to pick up the morning edition. The vendor was an extremely unpleasant man who not only ignored Harris when he said good morning, but also didn't thank him when Harris told him to keep the change. Powell immediately asked his friend why he was so kind and generous to such an ungrateful, mean-spirited individual. Harris replied, 'Why should I let him decide what kind of day I am going to have?'

"I realized at that moment that I had spent my entire life letting the actions or words or mere glances of others trigger my behavior, my feelings, my attitude, my self-assessment, and thus my plan for each day, as well as my imagined future. And I had never realized it. It simply had not occurred to me that I could or should be the one to decide exactly who I would bring to the party every day of my life.

"How others act does not need to affect how we think or act. There are countless situations and people we have no control over. A friend's angry outburst, a motorist's failure to see our car in a busy intersection, a spouse's relapse into alcohol or drug use — all of these things may upset us. But that upset can be brief if we keep the power over our own feelings.

"There is a difference between letting the reactions of others take over our life and respecting others' opinions while maintaining our own perspective and integrity. Failing to understand that difference creates the inner chaos that keeps many of us stuck in old, unproductive behavior and filled with uncertainty and anxiety. Letting someone else decide who we will be, how we will act, and what we will feel implies that we have given up our own life in exchange for whatever the other person wants us to be. When we adopt opinions that aren't consistent with our personal values, we are not living our own lives. We are not free.

"Coming to understand and eventually celebrate our powerlessness over people, places, and things is the key to our freedom — freedom from enmeshment, freedom from the fear of rejection, freedom from the fear of failure, freedom from the fear of success. We are blessed, every one of us, with gifts that are needed by others who are traveling this path with us. But until we are free to see who we really are, we will not be able to recognize that which we have been created to give. And until we can care deeply for others from a more objective perspective, we will not be able to give our special gifts to the world around us."