Turning Points


A few weeks ago I was with two friends, one of whom very abruptly became angry with the other over something that seemed to me quite small. A difference of opinion, as it turned out, about a political matter.¬†Very angry and very small, at least in the sense that the issue wasn’t important to their well-being or anything that was in their control. It was triggered by an everyday observation about the behavior of one particular politician. You’ve probably heard or made similar comments yourself.

To me, however, it was stunning. Why? Because, in that moment, I saw something that¬†I sometimes do: make a fuss with my wife over a subject of no real consequence, even though it tends not to be about politics. And, I’ll tell you what, what I saw wasn’t pretty. I’m sure it is every bit as unfortunate when I do it as when it happens between these two friends. For me it was a turning point. I have been much different since that day. More than once I’ve replayed in my head what I saw happening in front of me. I’m hoping that the change in me lasts and am writing this to keep myself on target.

I imagine that when most of us think of the idea of a personal turning point, we conjure up a more operatic circumstance. Something about death or winning (or losing) the presidency or falling in love, to name just a few possibilities. But, sometimes a turning point can be as unremarkable as the very personal one I just described. The kind of event that is inwardly dramatic, but not outwardly dramatic. The kind that has to do with an “aha” moment, the self-knowledge it brings, and a change in behavior because of it.

Put differently, turning points involve both what you experience and how you reflect on that experience. Moreover, that self-reflection must lead to a permanent change in conduct. Yet the trigger needn’t be theatrical. The event I just mentioned was compelling only because of the meaning I gave it. To anyone else watching, it would have been soon forgotten.

Here is a rather different kind of turning point, quite a contrast to the one I just portrayed. It is outwardly dramatic as well as inwardly dramatic. It changed how a teenager led the remaining 55 years of his life. Just reading this brief account might change yours: Turning Point.

The image above is a Korean Traffic “U-turn” Sign by P.Ctnt, sourced from Wikimedia Commons.