Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why I Hate Free Will

More precisely, I hate the free will of other people.

I am a pretty stubborn and prideful guy. This means that I think WAY too much about my own opinion. When I get annoyed, frustrated, or angry with another person, it is my problem, not the other person's. Of course, I usually don't start off seeing things that way, which is why I get frustrated, annoyed, and angry. But, the truth is that I allow myself to wallow in those feelings.

I love my own free will. I love the freedom to choose how I am to act, what I will believe, etc. But, I despise the free will of others all too often. This is because I think I know better than they do. I think things would be fine if they just did, said, and thought how I think they ought to.
What pride!

Why should I choose when or how others change?
Why should I be the one to choose the actions of others?
Why would I ever want to have someone change just because I think it is best?

Of course I shouldn't be the arbiter of what someone else chooses or how they live their lives. But, I think I should.

My spiritual director agrees that most other people think the same way, even if they don't realize it. The few that really and truly love the free will of others are saints. Since we are all called to be saints, we have to all work on loving the free will of others and not letting their decisions change how we react or give away our interior peace.

This AMAZING quote from Jacques Phillipe, from his book Interior Freedom, sums it all up for me.
At times of struggle we need also to recall the conversion we should be concerned about is not our neighbor's but our own. Only if we take our own conversion seriously do we stand any chance of seeing our neighbor converted too. This point of view is realistic and encouraging. We have little real influence on other people, and our attempts to change them have only a very slight chance of success, since most of the time we want them to change in line with our criteria and aims more than God's. If we are concerned first with our own conversion, however, we have more hope of making a difference. It does more good to seek to reform ou hearts than to reform the world or the Church. Everyone will benefit.

Let us aks ourselves this question: "To what degree can the evil in my surroundings affect me?" With apologies to those I am going to scandalize, I say that the evil around us - the sins of others, of people in the Church, of society - does not become an evil for us unless we let it penetrate our hearts.

The point isn't that we should become indifferent. Just the opposite. The holier we are, the more we will suffer due to the evil and sin in the world. But external evil only harms us to the degree we react badly to it, by fear, worry, discouragement, sadness, giving up, rushing to apply hasty solutions that don't solve anything, judging, fostering bitterness and resentment, refusing to forgive, and so on. Jesus says in St. Mark's Gospel: "There is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him!" Harm does not come to us from external circumstances, but from how we react to them interiorly. "What ruins our souls is not what happens outside, but the echo that it awakes within us." The harm that other people do to me never comes from them, it comes from me. Harm is only self-inflicted, the Fathers of the Church said long ago.


andrewposter said...

Very Interesting.... I feel as though I have started to understand this teaching. I realized one day that I can not change how others act, only how I act and react to the world around me. Although I "know" this, I still slip into reacting harshly, judging, and often anger.

This is one of those areas where I need to consistently check and recheck myself. As the sinful thoughts arise.

Thanks for the post!

Christine Falk Dalessio said...

Takes grace and humilty to admit this - and to be so honest. Thank you for sharing and for the encouragement to all of us to overcome our own pride.