My latest for OSV’s Daily Take
Whether or not you’ve made any New Year’s resolutions, this is a natural time to reflect on the changes we might like to make in our lives.
Unfortunately, a lot of efforts to change are driven by self-recrimination. We try to shame ourselves into the changes we’d like to make. “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just do this already?”
The Role of Guilt in Change
Guilt can play a part in the change process, but there is a difference between guilt as a loving correction of the Holy Spirit and guilt that’s a temptation from Satan to remain stuck. Healthy guilt allows us to remain hopeful in the face of our struggles. It challenges us to change while simultaneously allowing us to feel hopeful about the possibilities for healing and transformation. Neurotic guilt simply causes us to ruminate about our mistakes and the hopelessness of it all.
COAL: Fuel for change
Neuroscientists tell us that neurotic guilt makes change more difficult. The more we beat up on ourselves, the more brain chemicals that accompany self-hatred inhibit brain cells from growing and making new connections — both of which are necessary for new behaviors to develop and new lessons to stick.
The spiritual life is all about growth and change. In “Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart”(Image, $21), I present a brain-wise approach for creating graceful change. The four-step process employs the acronym COAL, which stands for Curiosity, Openness, Acceptance and Love. Whether you are trying to be more consistent about your prayer time, get control of your temper, lose weight or any other concern, research shows that approaching change with these qualities in mind facilitates the brain processes that allow our efforts to take root. CONTINUE READING