I had a conversation the other day with a friend about why we don’t do what we could do.
We are afraid to find out how much we can do.
A few things appear to me when I ask this question.
The first is similar to my lovely wife’s thoughts. If you know what you can do, you may discover a responsibility to do it. Excuses are nice sometimes.
The second though is more interesting to me. Let’s say you happen to be extremely strong as a young person. And you use that strength to get what you want.
You might be physically strong, or just very smart, or very charming. And you use that power to take advantage of people. You are giving into a temptation to use your power for evil.
Now you repent. And you don’t want to be that kind of person.
Instead of renouncing the misuse, you renounce the power. The power led you astray, and so you try to suppress it and avoid it and pretend you don’t have it.
But this isn’t the right response. This also cuts off your power to do good. Being too incapable or weak or timid to do evil is not the same thing as the capacity to do good.
It may be preferable for a truly bad man to stop being evil by becoming weak than to continue being evil.
But what if instead you became good? You kept your power. You didn’t divorce yourself from it, but instead turned it to good?
We sometimes avoid our areas of greatest strength because we are afraid of what we might do. We may have given ourselves wounds by misuse of those things in the past.
We may be avoiding confronting the scary truths about ourselves. Or confronting areas where there is some danger of regressing.
These fears hold us back from developing our strengths. Our greatest problems and our greatest strengths go together.
Find the Lie, Get back your Freedom
The lie is that you can’t be good if you have that power. You can’t be trusted with it.
Can you find the particular thing in your life?
Then what do you do with that? You figure out how to start living well with your talents, with your abilities. And you vote every day on what kind of person you want to be. You commit to it, and when you screw up, you repent.
You have to judge what risks you’re willing to take, but you can ease into things, and eventually learn how to use all your talents and abilities for good.
Then you will start to feel free again, to do what is good.
We must of course, in all things, try to avoid self-deception, and that’s why it helps to have some good friends with solid values to check you, and to challenge you.
But going through life timidly, afraid that we may make any mistake, or give any offense, or in any way do something a bit wrong is simply not a way to live. It’s avoiding the problem.
We need to become good, not just be too weak to be bad.