“We have to grow, we have to move forward, to learn and evolve, add to our dictionary of life” – Janet Leigh
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another” – Anatole France
Hmmmm. So, I am currently feeling reflective and wondering about progress, personal development and the future. As I’m sure you’ve thought before, this is a very broad and deep topic. The process of growth is seen everywhere: In nature, in children and even in our own lives. When we learn from something and change for the positive, this is growth. While it may sound unthreatening and harmless, I think true growth can be very painful, especially when it concerns the inner-life. Those set of ideas, beliefs, feelings, traditions and thoughts that we consider ‘normal’ often become (or have always been) a hindrance to growth and progress and must therefore be discarded in favour of new ideas and beliefs, more appropriate traditions, and better thoughts, feelings and ideas. This is often very difficult and painful. To realise that something which, up until now, you have considered to be part of who you are needs to be given up is quite shocking. I think it can be likened to losing a good friend. You have memories together, you have ‘history’. In a sense you see yourself as part of that old system, or more accurately you see that old system as being part of who you are (although I suppose these could be one and the same thing). And yet if we are to progress, these realisations must happen many times and in many different ways throughout our lives. A healthy sense of depression will ensue as we mourn for the loss of part of ourselves, but ultimately this is for the good. The comfort we derive from the familiar must give way to the necessity for growth.
Where do we get the strength to deal with these difficulties? To take that first step and assess our situation objectively (searching for the truth irrespective of what it may be) takes tremendous courage and inner strength – where does this come from? I’m not sure. Is it from our personality? Up-bringing? God? Or more realistically a combination of these three.
The above has assumed that we are willing to deal with problems when they arise. This is (unfortunately) not the only option. One could ignore them and hope that they go away ‘da Nile is not just a river in Egypt’. So many people choose this second option of ignoring their problems. They will make up stories, take drugs, get drunk, get in a relationship, all in an effort to avoid dealing with their problems or even more ridiculously in the hope that this will solve their problems. This leaves broken people who propagate broken children and ultimately a screwed-up society of ill-disciplined individuals who cannot grow.
I think two of the most comforting things about being a Christian are: Firstly, that God has told us so much about ourselves, His plan, and how the two interact in the Bible. Secondly, that the true source of determination, ability, motivation, self-control etc is external to ourselves – the Holy Spirit. True and sustained growth is not possible without the Holy Spirit who is that part of the Godhead that is here on earth dwelling with us, helping us, counselling us, leading us and growing us.
In sum, growth is fundamental. We cannot grow without giving up unhelpful parts of ourselves. This is painful and only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. Just a thought… 🙂