“Sometimes our resistance toward God and toward our own well-being is not so obvious; it’s hidden within attitudes and personal habits that we form in order to protect ourselves or to help us feel significant. These attitudes and habits distance us from others and from the Divine, and they enable us to keep dealing with life in ways that aren’t working for us” (Days of Deepening Friendship, 148).
The most crucial progress in life is interior. Yes, you need to find your way down the roads of career, family, and community. But equally important is developing the spiritual habit of greeting each day with an open heart. Most of us contain many obstacles to such openness and freedom.
Here are a few questions that might help identify ways in which a person can get in her own way:
- How important is it for me to gain others’ approval? Do I rearrange my activities and my conversations in order to please others, regardless of what is true or what I really think or desire?
- Do I have any addictions? Food, drugs, alcohol, television, Internet use, work, sex—these are some of the obvious ones. Anything I turn to regularly when I am stressed or in pain may be an addiction or developing into one.
- What kind of people do I spend a lot of time with? Do they encourage me to be my best self, or do they pull me in directions that are unhealthy?
- Have I developed strategies and habits that help me avoid doing what I should be doing?
- Is my constant interior dialogue with myself uplifting and positive, or is it critical, self-loathing, and negative?
- Do I find myself in patterns of behavior that are discouraging to me and that I don’t seem to be able to change or break out of?
One good indicator that you’re getting in your own way is what I call primary emotions. Each person has favorite, or habitual, emotions. Some people tend to be angry a lot. It can come out as sarcasm or simple irritation, but for some of us anger is the personal indulgence that holds up our progress. For others, fear colors just about every hour of the day. Often it appears as various minor anxieties, but at the heart of their interior life is fear, and it keeps them stuck.
Some people tend toward ambition or competition, whether or not those modes are truly helpful. Others indulge nostalgia, clinging to the past rather than moving into the present.
Do you get the idea? Try to spend some time each day for a week or two,
asking God to help you identify how you get in your own way.
Blessings on your journey.