The Willing Heart
A willing heart is prerequisite for developing character integrity. Forging good character is inherently hard work. So, you have to have the heart for it. Most of us don’t come by such heart easily. We humans are inherently creatures of economy. We’re hardwired to maximize our comforts and minimize our pains. Few of us actually like to work. Most of us do it primarily out of necessity. Sometimes, other benefits ease the burden. The work involved in raising children might well fit into that category. However, the work involved in developing our character is different. Its benefits aren’t realized for a long time. Moreover, the task, done properly, takes a lifetime.
A willing heart is first and foremost an open one. Open to what? Open to many things, including the daunting task at hand. But more importantly, open to the lessons the principles outlined in Essentials for the Journey can teach.
Obstacles to a Willing Heart
A culture steeped in narcissism necessarily impacts hearts in negative ways. Caught in a sea of indulgence, entitlement, abuse and exploitation, hearts inevitably harden. They have to. It’s self-protection, pure and simple. But the cost is monunental. While the cost to society is great, perhaps the greater cost is to the individual soul. All too many among us lead lives of what Thoreau called “quiet desperation.” They’re hungry all the time. And they’re unsatisfied. Worst of all, they usually don’t know what they’re actually so hungry for.
I’ve posted often on the relationship between culture and character. (See, for example: Culture and Character Impact Each Other and An Entitlement Culture Fosters Narcissism.) But just as slowly and insidiously as we got to where we are, we can turn things around. What’s necessary is a change of heart. And, as I’ve pointed out countless times before, hearts don’t change all that easily. Still, there is a way.
Living the Answer
Countless relationship partners and helping professionals have made the same mistake. They tried “reasoning” with character-impaired individuals. They tried to get the to “see” the misguided nature of their ways. And they tried coaxing and cajoling a change of mindset. This rarely works. And it’s not because how we see things doesn’t impact how we act. It certainly does. But getting to see things differently when the way they’ve always done things seems to work for them is generally futile. Behavior has to change first. You have to do differently to begin to think differently. And sadly, the art of inspiring and reinforcing small steps in the right direction has largely been lost. (See also: Fostering a Genuine Change of Mind.)
We’ll find the answer to our character problems the same way they came upon us: slowly and incrementally. We’ll make the decision to make character matter again. And we will expect it of ourselves and of our partners. We’ll also do our best to instill it in our children. In short, we will once again demand it of ourselves and each other. Then, this character-impaired age will come to a close. And in the process, we’ll help each other find our hearts’ desire.
Click on the following link to hear the latest Character Matters podcast.
Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse and Gaslighting
You can access information for an interview I’ll be giving to the folks at AVAIYA University by clicking on the link below: