Choosing is a power that we will always have – all of us. Another way of phrasing this is to simply say that all of us have free will. Nobody forces me to sin, or to do something that creates a distance between me and God. I choose it. In past homily, I even suggested that nobody even forces me to stop at a red light in traffic. It may seem that way since I always do. However, the truth is that people run red lights all the time, even though they know it is a law that they must stop. So, in truth, I choose to stop at a red light. Since I choose sin, an experience that would make me feel bad, I can choose to do well, and experience that would enable me to feel better, both toward myself as well as the people around me.
How does this work?
It can be understood to work according to an image that I also shared in a past homily, which is that of a car. This image, just so you know, comes from Dr. William Glasser, the founder of a system of therapy entitled, “reality Therapy/ Choice Theory.” The image is unpacked in this manner. Imagine a car, just the body of a car, naturally with four wheels. The front wheels steer the car and the back wheels follow. The back wheels are entitled, feelings and physiology. The only nuance is that when reflecting on the front wheels, just remember that we are talking about “Positive Doing” and “Positive Thinking.” Continuing with this imagery now, Glasser teaches that if one feels bad, then changing what one thinks or what one does, in a positive way, would change how one feels for after all, back wheels follow front wheels. He feels that this message is important for in his experience with therapy, people who feel bad, due to negative thinking or by doing the wrong things, end up continuing to think the same thoughts and continue to do the wrong things. The ongoing bad thinking leaves them feeling both powerless and helpless. Someone has to help them consider different options. And perhaps that is where we come in as Christians.
A Main reason why people find it difficult to change is because they do not really accept the fact that they can. They do not own the fact that they have such inner power. One can see this lack of ownership in how often people blame someone else for their negative feelings. The reason, in other words, why I may feel bad is because______ did it to me, and here you can just fill in the blanks. Along with this reaction is the concomitant one of trying to change others. “I will change you!” What do we end up with? Glasser lists out what he calls the seven deadly habits and they are: criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding control. These habits are largely biblical, but then again, so are Glasser’s seven caring habits…supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences.
We move into the deadly habits when we do not own our internal power to change. When I become open to a conversion experience, which means literally a “change of mind.” I inevitably realize that I can change myself and not others. I realize that real change comes from within, and I can in fact change. Goodness! With this model, I have to also realize that I am even choosing the bad feeling that I may have now. Nobody is doing this to me. I’m doing this to me. A realization like this opens me up to real loving behaviors, and once there, I find Christ.
Blessings, Fr. Walter