You are stranded in the middle of the ocean, desperately trying to keep yourself afloat as you scramble for air in the smothering darkness.
The night is quiet around you, the world submerged in an ominous silence.
The sounds of your heavy breathing and your hands flailing in the water are the only things that pierce through the quiet.
The vast expanse of the inky blue sea is all you can see, along with a single narrow plank floating a few meters away from you.
What will you do?
You swim to the plank and save yourself from a sure death by using the wood to keep you afloat.
But your choice isn’t that simple.
You’re not alone.
I’m there along with you, scrambling for the same air you fill your lungs with and my eyes are frozen on the same plank that yours are riveted on.
It is narrow, lethally narrow, a close fit for even one person.
The water seems to be rising, your body slowly surrendering to the pull of the ocean. You feel the terror, the smothering panic as it dawns on you that the plank is your only chance at life.
What will you do now?
You have two choices:
You can be the chivalrous one, let me have the plank and save myself, while you surrender to the turbulent waters.
Or you can choose to save your own life and allow me to drown to my death, trade my life in place of yours.
My desperate shouts will fill the night sky, pleas for mercy, but you will not look back.
A few minutes will pass, and my cries will be smothered by the ocean, fading out into the night. My body will be taken in by the inky darkness, as I’d never really existed.
The world will be submerged in the eerie silence again; the silence of sin, the silence of murder.
What will you choose?
Will you be the murdered or the murderer? A victim or a survivor?
Will you kill and save yourself?
Or die with the knowledge that you’d saved my life?
We’ve all been programmed to believe that to take that plank and not look back would be a sin, a cruelty.
That we should choose to be caring and selfless and give up our lives in an oh-so valiant gesture for another person.
We celebrate sacrifice, romanticize it.
And we demonize ‘selfishness’, we look down on people who choose themselves first, people who make the most of the lives they’ve been given.
And yet, we’re all inherently selfish, as human beings, we’re programmed to look at our own lives first.
And at the end of the day, if it really comes to it, we will take the plank for ourselves.
So why then, do we force ourselves to feel guilty for being unable to give without losing ourself in the process?
Why do we torment ourselves to sacrifice as much as we can without giving a thought to our own hopes and dreams?
Why do we make ourselves responsible for the failures and successes of the ones we love?
The truth is:
The only fate you can control is yours.
The only life you have power over is the one you’re living right now.
And the only life you are truly responsible for is your own.
And not the person you love drowning next to you.
Give as much as you can, but when you can give no more, know that it is still love to let go.
Even the purest of flames have the potential to destroy.
And even the best intentions can sometimes do more harm than good.
Give up a dream for someone you love, however harmless an action, and there’s a good chance you might have destroyed a relationship that could’ve flowered.
Love can survive the puncture of hatred and scab over. But bitterness and resentfulness will raze it to the ground.
To give because you truly want to is one thing, but to sacrifice because you feel pressured to is quite another.
And the difference between the two is happiness and bitterness.
Your life is waiting for you. And the clock is ticking.
What do you choose?