One of the things I keep trying to teach myself is discipline. (Don’t we all?) Each time I renew this goal, I make plans and stick to them quite well for a period – a day or a week, or even longer for some things like junk food and TV-watching. But I usually fall back to a less-disciplined level without the resolution sticking; even though I know it’s what I want and why. Why is this? It’s similar to what I’ve read happens to most people who try to follow special diets in order to lose weight. Most often, they do even worse afterwards, putting on more weight than they had before.
Last night, I recognised why this happens to me. I don’t change just because I know it matters; because it makes sense to me and my will is strong. Those things count, but they’re the ruling area of self-control; they have to be applied constantly in order to do the work themselves, and usually I’m just not that strong. I really want to do right things, but I often don’t, because I’m mortal. I live in a world where temptation is constant and “sin conceiveth in [my] heart” (Moses 6:55). I might have a really strong desire and bend my will to achieve it, but at some point it will weaken. That’s the result of the Fall, and the reason for needing a Saviour (and what Paul the apostle is always explaining in his letters).
I change when my vision changes; when I suddenly see things differently and am filled with light and understanding about them. When that happens, I naturally change – I can’t help but change, because I’m different. It’s about a feeling and conviction, enlightenment and knowledge. There’s only one way to act, and it feels possible and profoundly right. I act with joy and a certain ease that wasn’t there before – an ease and joy which are absent when using only my tenacious will.
What makes me really change is the influence of the Holy Spirit, acting on the Light of Christ that’s in me. Helping me to see life and situations in a new way; showing me where pieces connect; making it possible for me to feel and act differently because now I understand – with my heart, mind and spirit. I think that’s the way we all need to change, and the way intended through the Plan of Salvation. We try and try, get stuck in our difficulties and fallen natures, and God works little by little in our hearts and minds, eventually bringing us to these points of recognition. Our successes and mistakes, littered behind us, teach us profoundly about life, ourselves and wisdom. Our Saviour effects a complete change in us, in each of the million areas where it’s needed, making us, piece by piece, into new beings.