As you no
doubt have noticed, doing what you inwardly feel is best can be
difficult. That's because there is an almost continuous battle
going on between your negative tendencies and your positive tendencies.
Each of us has vast numbers of decisions to make each day, and
while we may cruise through many of them on automatic pilot, hardly
noticing what we're doing, it is the hundreds of mostly small
decisions we make each day that shape our character and our lives.
You may, for
example, notice a conflict going on inside between taking an invigorating
walk in the fresh evening air versus mindlessly watching the tube
as you eat the last two pieces of cherry cheesecake. Or you may
have a split-second decision on whether to make an unnecessary
critical remark or to remain silent. You might even receive a
surprisingly seductive invitation to cheat on your spouse, catching
you totally off-guard. At times like these, the temptation to
side with our lower nature can be almost overwhelming, and it
becomes crystal clear that life is a battlefield and that a war
rages within each of us.
We can't escape
this battle between our lower natures and our higher natures.
To be alive is to be on the battlefield, and if we are to grow
in peace and love and joy, we must make wise decisions in keeping
with our better natures. We must learn to fight off the inevitable
attacks by the negative forces of fear, greed, and unkindness.
history, and in the great stories of life, we see the cosmic battle
between good and evil played out. The most notable example in
recent popular entertainment is the Star Wars series, in
which the noble Jedi fight against an evil galactic empire that
seems poised to win all the battles. This is a story of good versus
evil told on an epic scale. But most such battles are on such
a small scale that they may escape our notice.
In our everyday
lives we also witness battles between good and evil in every act
of injustice that is challenged and in every expression of courageous
creativity that lessens pain, gives birth to beauty, or stretches
the boundaries of what is possible.
the battle of life is an opportunity to learn to discriminate
between what is best for us, and what we should avoid; it is an
opportunity for us to build our strength, faith, and loving-kindness.
a training ground in which we learn to be very alert, in which
we choose to make the wisest decisions possible. It's how we
gradually learn, with ever-increasing skill, to choose love instead
Francis of Assisi meant when he said, "Where there is hatred,
let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is
doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness,
light; where there is sadness, joy." In each of these examples-and
indeed, in all the great religious and philosophical traditions
of the world-we are encouraged to make the best choices possible,
for the good of all.
to engage skillfully in the battle between positive and negative
forces, you more frequently make wise choices, thus growing in
strength, wisdom, and happiness. And you also help to make the
world a better, more caring place for everyone.
In our hearts
there is a "still, small voice" that is always there to guide
us in making wise choices. As health specialist Susan Smith Jones
assures each of us, "All the answers are within you right now
if you just take the time to be still and listen, in quiet and
solitude, and then act on what you hear."
by Sam Quick, Ph.D., Human Development and Family Relations Specialist,
and Alex Lesueur, Jr., M.S.L.S, Staff Support Associate.