After open-mindedness and self-honesty, the third spiritual principle that I lean on is WILLINGNESS. Taken together these three principles form a powerful paradigm for me to use to approach my life, and to provide some great boundaries as well.
Willingness, for me, is simply a matter of desire.
How badly do I WANT to change?
(By the way, this is where the inter-relatedness of these principles really becomes evident.)
For most of us, change only comes as a result of pain—either pain that we experience ourselves or pain that we inflict on others. When we experience that pain or witness the results of that pain in others, we OFTEN (but, unfortunately, not ALWAYS) become willing to do anything in order to change.
We have a wake up call.
Being willing means saying, “I will do ANYTHING in order to stop the pain.” When I have been able to say that, it has been like opening the gate for the other two principles:
When I’m willing to stop the pain, I’ll look at myself with as honest an evaluation as I can. I want to see clearly who I am, in order to see how I need to change.
When I’m willing to do anything to stop the pain, I’ll open my mind up to say, “What I have been doing is obviously not working; what else is there to try?” (Remembering that the definition of insanity is simply doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)
But to be honest, even when I suspect that I’m causing undue pain in myself and others, I’m really not THAT willing.
Being willing to do ANYTHING means that I’m willing to SACRIFICE, to LAY DOWN, potentially a LOT of things.
And that’s a big price to pay for a lot of us.
Am I willing to sacrifice my pride? My job? My prestige? My POWER?
How about my CONTROL?
Luckily, the principle of willingness has one additional layer to it:
When I am not WILLING, I can be WILLING to be WILLING.
It’s the desire before the desire. The hope before the hope.
And somehow, I think the universe—God—can work with that.
So practicing willingness means laying it all on the line. It means trying my best (because NO ONE is perfect), and not holding back.
It ALSO means that I am willing to listen to others (i.e., to be utterly OPEN-MINDED) EVEN WHEN I THINK I’M RIGHT OR I HAVE NOTHING LEFT TO LEARN.
Practicing also means that I take an unvarnished, even-handed look at my character and my behavior in order to know myself as objectively as possible (being SELF-HONEST).
(It also means being open (minded) to the possibility that I HAVE NOT been objectively honest enough about my character, and I need to look harder or deeper.)
See how this all works together yet?
I like simple things, mostly because I have an intense tendency to over-complicate EVERYTHING, particularly when it comes to spirituality and life.
So coming back to the idea that there are just these THREE THINGS that I can start with is such a gift to me. When I feel like I’m getting sideways and out of sorts, I can start here:
Am I open-minded?
Am I being honest with myself?
Am I willing?
(Or, even more likely…)
Am I WILLING to be open-minded?
Am I WILLING to be honest?
Am I WILLING to be willing?
Somehow, and I cannot explain it, God and grace works with “willing to be willing…” In fact, I don’t think God “meets us halfway when we are willing to be willing; I actually think He comes ALL THE WAY TO US as soon as we are willing to be…
And life can begin to change; I can begin to heal. I can begin to SOMEHOW become the human being that I am meant to be IN the world and FOR the world.