"The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become- because He made us. He invented us.... When I give up myself to His personality, I first begin to have a real personality of my own." -C. S. Lewis
"Who are you?"
People want to know who we really are, but the question "Who are you?" is a bit too personal. So they ask, "What do you do?"
The question usually refers to our work activity and serves as a polite way of getting to know us better because our work influences how others categorize us. But consider this-our work can also influence how we categorize ourselves.
Does the work category adequately represent who we are? From the death camps of World War II, psychiatrist Victor Frankl discovered that we can transcend the level of our "psychic and physical conditions." Even when we feel trapped by our past work or imprisoned in a present job, transformational change is available. Transformation can be seen as an "outside" and "inside" operation. Whereas the outside operation concerns what you do, the inside operation primarily concerns who you are. Both have deep and wide implications. Both require wise responses to stimuli.
Doing What You Choose to Do
Who controls what you do? An important moment for me was the realization that at a certain level, I can choose what I do. I can choose to go to work or not go. I can choose a particular subject to study or some other. Kind of basic. Right? Even as a youth, I was already making decisions that affected the direction of my life. I chose what I did.
A crucial moment for me came when I developed a mental foundation for my ability to choose. I remember learning the S-R theory, which states that if you control the stimulus, you control the result.
Psychologist Pavlov is known for his experimentation with dogs to prove the S-R theory. When the dogs heard a bell ring (stimulus), they began to salivate (response). The stimulus-response predictability became a key part of a theory of human behavior called "Behaviorism."
We do respond in predictable ways to much of the stimuli we face-when we see a police car behind us, we slow down; when we place our hand on a hot stove, we instantly respond without thinking about it. You likely can add examples from your own behavioral tendencies.
We can diagram this type of behavior as follows:
Stimulus > Response
Granted, a stimulus often produces a highly accurate response. But what about the bigger issues of our lives, like choosing our future or becoming the person we really want to be? Are we limited only to an S-R type of existence as some suppose?
I don't think so. Actually, the S-R theory suggests severe limits to our freedom. But surely humans can respond with intelligent choices beyond stimulus-controlled reactions. Although S-R does explain some behavior, it says nothing about our ability to choose a different response. A more accurate description for humans can be described as follows:
Stimulus > Choice > Response
Norman Cousins writes in Human Options that choosing is a special gift of mankind:
"The human species is unique because
it alone can create, recognize, and exercise options....
It is part of human experience that we are endowed with the faculty of choice."
Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, writes that this concept of human choice also had a profound impact on his life and was a fundamental concept in his writing of the 7 Habits. One day in a library, he read three sentences that "staggered him to the core."
Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response.
In those choices lie our growth and our happiness.
When you review your past, perhaps you notice that certain stimuli (people, situations, job environment) have influenced you to respond in a way that is unwise and contrary to the person you want to be. You might say that a negative stimulus produced an unwise
response. But what has been in the past does not determine your future. You can change a negative behavior pattern by choosing what you truly want to do. It looks like this:
Negative Stimulus > Choice > Positive Response
When negative influences are intercepted by wise choices, we are in a better position to make forward progress toward what matters to us. This is huge! The ability to choose positively impacts how we live.
If you have made unwise choices in the past, you can start today to choose wisely. In the short run, a wise choice (such as doing the honest thing at work) might have negative effects (you might lose your job). But I have never ever seen a person who consistently makes wise choices regret the consequences long-term. Have you? Wise choices have their own intrinsic reward.
Choosing to Become a New You
What is the wisest choice you can make regarding who you want to become? You are not tied to other people's expectations. You are not limited by what you do or have been. You can choose to become a new you.
Did you know that becoming a new you can set you on a path to new freedom? It's a freedom linked to your core being, your psyche, your soul. And when your soul is free, you are free indeed. Even financially poor people who know "soul freedom" show happiness. They enjoy an inner freedom not controlled by external events.
Inner freedom to become all you were created to be requires a transformation of your soul. The Bible states that transformational change is accomplished by a relationship with God through faith in Christ, who rescues us from anything that binds us. Apostle Paul wrote, "For freedom Christ has set us free."
If you sense a need to be free from all that enslaves-a need for a fullness in life that money, status, and interpersonal relationships cannot fill-choose God. Choose to answer God's call to you to believe, choose to center your life in your relationship with God.
Paul W. Swets
P.S. FINDING HAPPINESS BLOGS are excerpts from Finding Happiness--Building Stable Relationships in Turbulent Times. For more information, go to http://www.findinghappiness.info . You may share the HAPPINESS BLOG with friends and on your Facebook page.
"Destined to be a classic!" Kyle Rote, Jr., Soccer Hall of Fame