In his seminal work, Mere Christianity, author C. S. Lewis discusses the idea that each decision we make changes us. It turns us closer to or farther away from Good. I find that idea intriguing. If that is true, than I am not the same person today as I was yesterday. I am either closer toward God or further away.
Lewis goes on to claim that when we are closer toward Goodness, we know it, but when we are further away, we do not know it. He likens it to being asleep. When we are asleep, we do not know it. We only know it when we have awakened. I wonder how it is that we know when we are turning toward Good, but we don’t necessarily know it when we are turning away from it. I have a hunch that it’s because it is harder to turn toward Goodness than away from it.
Turning toward Goodness requires a deliberate choice on our part that is harder to make, either a little bit or a lot harder. Turning away from Goodness is easy. Being too lazy to pick up that piece of litter, procrastinating by not checking in on that neighbor who lost a loved one, having that second piece of cake because I deserve it (after all, I walked up the stairs instead of taking the elevator), these things are easy. Being a person of excellence and turning toward Goodness: picking up that piece of litter, checking in on my neighbor, saying No to a second piece of cake, these things are a little bit harder and, I think, make me a little bit better. [I realize that these are very small examples and are not earth-shattering decisions, but aren’t 99% of our daily decisions small, not earth-shattering?]
So, if all this is true, I am moment-by-moment becoming a person who is choosing to turn toward Goodness or not. How is it possible to be aware of all of these thousands of choices throughout the day so that I can deliberately choose Goodness? I think it’s possible by doing two things: 1. By staying in the moment, and 2. By habit.
For thousands of years, humans have struggled to live in the present moment with more or less success. It is hugely rewarding when we persist in focusing our mind on what is happening right now, what we are thinking right now. This article describes this process. Not only do we experience life more fully, more richly, but, with practice, time seems to slow down. When we live in the moment, we can be more aware of the choices we have and we can be more deliberate in our choosing. [Please note: living in the moment requires a lifetime of practice. If you practice constantly, you will eventually get better at it, but you will still need to practice constantly. There is no “autopilot” for living in the moment.]
As we deliberately make choices that turn us toward God, the next time that choice becomes a bit easier, and vice versa. It becomes a habit. Choices of cynicism, lethargy, dishonesty, hope, concern, selflessness, these all can – and will – become habits. If we deliberately turn toward the good over and over again, it’s likely that we will continue to do so. We have to make those choices deliberately, however.
These choices are changing us day-by-day. I am not the same person today as I was yesterday. The question I ask myself is: Who do I want to be tomorrow?