They say we learn from our mistakes. This happens occasionally, but more often I observe myself procrastinating or making snap judgements about people again and again.
I think twelve-step programs call this powerlessness. The likelihood of willing ourselves to change is low. I recently read an interview with an efficiency expert who basically said that willpower is not really a thing.
As I understand them, the next few of the twelve steps prescribe looking clearly at what one is doing. This process has multiple levels. It means admitting to ourselves that we are the cause of the outcomes we’re experiencing, but it also means seeing past or through our mistakes, seeing them for what they are.
Our failures don’t define us. Only love has the power to name who we are, as Jim Finley says. If we aren’t seeing our limitations clearly—and clarity comes not with the harsh light of judgement but with the gentle illumination of mercy—we might mistake them for our true nature.
We are limited beings, but none of us is a whole unto ourselves, nor are we intended to be. The astonishing variety in this world reflects the infinite nature of God’s one Love in which we belong as an integral part. Concentrating on our faults leads us to create separation rather than living the wholeness that is.
It’s hard in this culture in the midst of failure to see oneself as part of a blessed whole. We can no more will ourselves to see this reality than to make any other change, but we can live as if it is true, we can have faith. We can embrace ourselves with the love and respect due a manifestation of God and one day, as Richard Rohr says, we’ll live ourselves into a new way of thinking.
2 thoughts on “Letting Love Define Us”
“Live ourselves into a new way of thinking.” I like that. Donna Eden also says that willpower is pretty useless or we would all be perfect on January 2nd. Personally I find Energy Medicine very helpful. Our energies (thoughts are energy) get stuck in certain patterns. We can kinesthetically repattern them.
“Our failures don’t define us.” Very true. And sometimes our “failures” are something we do in order to protect ourselves at a certain unconscious level. And sometimes they are guidance. Like not buying the airplane ticket when we “should” and then finding out it would have been the wrong date.
Love. Thank you.
The idea of cooperation with grace has been helpful to me in formulating an approach to spiritual practice. Jim Finley talks about cultivating a stance of least resistance. “Cultivating” asserts that we have an active part in this. That, I think is where clarity and discipline are necessary. It’s not a matter of an iron will, but there is a dimension of will, or commitment, or discipline involved I think. And I think this is often the missing ingredient that prevents many people from establishing a contemplative practice in their lives.
In her latest book Ilia Delio writes about a western Buddhist nun who went into the Himalayas and meditated in a hermitage for six years. The ensuing spiritual growth and transformation were the fruit of this tremendous commitment and effort. At the same time this transformation was not subject to an act of will. It was cultivated and arose in response to a sustained act of love.
I think in assessing our weaknesses, insight and understanding are much more conducive to growth than harsh judgement. Self-compassion is so important in this and yet so easy to overlook.