“Futility. Absolute futility. Everything is Futile.” (Eccl. 1:2) Life can feel so draining and, well futile sometimes. As soon as you wash all the dishes, new ones are dirtied. As soon as you pick up the toys, new ones come out. As soon as you feel a spark of energy, someone needs you. These word from Ecclesiastes ring as true today as I’m sure they did when they were written (which is one thing that I love about the Bible).
Lately it seems that the internet is swarming with advice and self help. A few famous self help books are all the buzz right now, but they’re not the first of their kind. There is no shortage of people pouring their opinions into the interwebs and no shortage of people lapping them up. Consumers are pointed in the “right” direction and even given a cute PDF of an action plan to personalize.
I just can’t help but notice the gaping hole in these plans.
All good teachers point their people in the right direction and give challenges and next steps to try. Time after time the people take these plans and start to implement them. With gusto at first. Then with grit. And when they weary of fighting daily against the habits they want to break (or for the habits they want to start) they give up. We give up.
We’ve all done it: started an diet, exercise plan, reading plan, new bedtime routine only to fizzle out long before a habit starts to settle in. The gurus change the name of the “thing” to try and help us trick our minds into thinking that changing our diet is actually a “new eating lifestyle” or that a new reading plan is a “learning adventure.” But a diet is still a diet and a reading plan is still just you sitting with a book.
So far I’ve been pretty pessimistic haven’t I? Well, so starts the book of Ecclesiastes. I’m in good company.
What most plans of change fail to account for in our western world is the vital role that the heart plays in our actions. We love to fool ourselves into thinking that minds rule the day. We fancy ourselves rational beings and that the most pious way to live is to ignore our emotions, downplay our bodies, and wish that we could be solely governed by our brains.
But Christians, that’s not Christianity or holiness. It sounds a bit like Christian Gnosticism, which BTW, was condemned as heresy in the 300’s.
It takes much more than new information to make changes to our lifestyle and behaviors.
Beliefs are at the core of all of our motivations for action. What is a belief? It is something we think is true AND feels completely true too. That feeling part is vital to a belief. It is the difference between action and inaction when it comes to living by what you know is true.
Understanding beliefs and how they work within us is the beginning of understanding why that change you tried to make in the new year is now a distant memory as we approach April. You set the goal. You made the action plan. You put it on your schedule. You even got an accountability partner. You did all the things they told you to do to change a New Years Resolution into a new habit. Yet, here you find yourself with your secret stash of sweets still in the pantry, a stack of unread books, still yelling at your kids and overwhelmed.
When what we think and feel are true actually line up with truth, we act in good and holy ways without much effort. When thoughts and feelings are so aligned our actions are just automatic. You think it, then you do it because nothing in your heart pulls you away from that thought or action.
Your heart is important. It is not a second class citizen to your mind, body, or spirit. It plays a vital role in your decision making whether you recognize its pull on you or not. Nurture your sensitivity to your own emotions. Appreciate what they are trying to tell you. And stop by next week for part 2 of this series where we’ll talk more about how to change your beliefs so that you can change your life.
To start your journey on honoring and understanding your emotions to help you find lasting change and emotional peace start HERE. To explore a particular emotion, I’ve written about what each core emotion is there to tell you. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear (anxiety), Jealousy.
Featured photo by: Photographed by Makenzie