What does it mean to choose someone? What does it mean to that person, to say that he or she is chosen? What kind of relationship is created between chooser and chosen by the making of such a choice?

Suppose you are running a raffle, for which you will draw one of dozens of identical slips of paper out of a basket without looking. You reach into the basket, feel around for a slip of paper, and pull one out. Some lucky person just won a prize. Did you choose that person? Did you even choose the slip of paper?

You could say that you picked a particular piece of paper, in the sense that there came a time in rummaging around the basket when you decided that enough is enough, let’s just pick one and move things along, already. You made sure you had a good grasp on one, and that you weren’t accidentally grabbing two that were stuck together or pulling up part of the inside of the basket. But one slip of paper is as good as another, and picking one particular slip over another is not a meaningful choice.

Unless the raffle is rigged, of course. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

To say that something (or someone) is a choice implies a weighing of alternatives, an evaluation of attributes or projected outcomes. It requires some kind of purpose, too. We don’t choose things just to choose them. Like, walking through the park, you wouldn’t say, “Oh, I choose that tree. That’s the one, right there.” and then leave, never to return or think about your chosen tree again. And it is the purpose of that choice that determines the evaluation that goes into making it.

Additionally, a meaningful choice requires a certain amount of knowledge about the alternatives, or at least the ability to distinguish between them. You have to have some of way of deciding (or at least guessing) which alternative would be better for your intended purpose. So saying that something was chosen by you is saying that you knew enough about it to make the choice.

In short, something that is chosen is something which has a set of known, distinguishing attributes that you have evaluated by a certain set of criteria or compared to a set of alternative choices and found to be the most suitable for some particular purpose. Paper or plastic, coffee or tea, boy or girl.

Another property of choices is that they can be wrong.

If, when facing a set of alternatives from which you must choose, you were to suddenly be visited by a prophetic vision that left you with absolutely no doubt of the outcome of each choice, and that one of them was clearly superior to all others, then you really don’t have a choice at all, do you? Not without revising your criteria or the purpose of your choice, at least. So for something to be a meaningful, conscious choice, it must also involve uncertainty. There’s a chance you could be wrong. There’s a chance you could regret your choice.

So when you call someone chosen, here is what you are saying: There is a purpose for which I have selected you. I was faced with a set of alternatives, and I found you to be the most suitable by evaluating some observable characteristics that you possess or at least inferring those characteristics which I could not observe. Having chosen you, I have created a relationship with you that exists by virtue of the fact that you meet my standards and suit my needs. And if that turns out not to be the case, then the choice that forms the basis of our relationship will turn out to have been a wrong choice.

I have a child, but I did not choose her. My wife and I chose to have a child, and she’s what we got. And we are lucky. Perhaps she chose us. But she is not a chosen child. She is a wanted child.


5 Responses to “Chosen.”

  1. 1 Possum June 21, 2007 at 6:00 am

    oooooo – GREAT post.
    Poss. xx

  2. 2 justenjoyhim June 21, 2007 at 11:34 am

    In the movie “Loggerheads,” the main character said when his amom talked about him being “chosen,” he always had an image of a bunch of puppies that the aparents could look at and pick from.


    The agencies, the literature, the “culture” of adoption do paparents a great disservice. It’s hard, very hard, not to get sucked into all of that because of how romantic and pretty and “right” it sounds. Truly. The paparents and aparents mean the best, I believe that they do.

    But over the years, I’ve come to agree with you, B. It’s not a healthy thing to tell a child and we don’t. The simple truth in our situation is that our adoption facilitator chose Nate for us. Not very mystical, in fact, but it’s worked out quite well. 🙂

  3. 3 iBastard June 21, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Fortunately, my adoptive parents never tried this “chosen child” bullshit with me. Yes, they did specify they wanted a healthy white infant (and they may have even said male, I can’t remember), but they have always been pretty up front about the fact that the reason I was with them is that they were next in the queue when I was relinquished. Period.

    And you know what? That has never, ever bothered me. Lots of things about being adopted bother me, but that’s not one of them. It’s the truth, and it means they just wanted a kid, and I did not have to be anything more than I already was (which, admittedly, isn’t always as simple as it sounds, as those of you who read Lisa Marie’s blog know).

  4. 4 homegirlblue June 21, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    Damn, thanks for this, ive got a blog post on that exact same thing rumbling about in my head

  5. 5 John June 22, 2007 at 1:43 am


    Glad you never had to deal with the “chosen stigma”.

    A previous post talks about how I was subjected to this treatment and how people still use it today:

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