When it comes to more than one option, on a bad day a primitive part of me often reverts to the sing-song kindergarten decision-making method of eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
It’s a simple process of elimination that whittles down a list of choices until only one remains. Little is required. I don’t have to give careful thought to issues inherent in the situation. There’s no need to glance inward to see what is truly desired. I can skip discernment with its practices of observing, listening and waiting. Patience? None needed. If I’m lucky, the possibilities will fit neatly within cultural dictates, common wisdom or the preferences of others.
Thankfully I do better most days in what is a continuous process of learning through all sorts of decisions.
Xfinity is sniping Qwest with a commercial featuring a young man with his own ideas of what he wants and two authoritative men in suits who trump his decisions because they know what he wants and what’s best for him. The young man considers hip jeans, but the two men insist that what he really wants is a pair of ridiculous looking gold, satiny pants that are befitting a Shriner circus performer. Scanning a selection of uber cool electric guitars, the suits tell him that he really wants a dingy tuba. At the end of the spot, the young man is robbed of himself, appearing utterly foolish, while the two men stand beside him looking proud and smug.
That 30-second spot captures my personal experience. Throughout my life there have been people who told me what I wanted and what was best for me. Their choices didn’t have anything to do with who I am, or what I really wanted, and especially not what was best for me. At times I had to acquiesce in order to keep the peace or survive.
I have been at war for a long time with a few people who refuse to acknowledge my ability to determine what I want and what is good and right for me. They want control; I rightfully refuse. They use an amazing array of tactics to attempt to foist their wills. I have built up strong muscles in fighting back. When the way has been blocked, I learned to find another way.
The training has forced me to grow in clarity about what I do want and what I do not. Without apology I can say “I want this. I don’t want that.”
My friend Saint Ignatius helps me immensely. When I was first introduced to him years ago, one of the principles that took root first was the concept of asking God for what I really want. Ignatius believed the God is the source of our deepest desires and that in recognizing them we begin to move toward God, toward our truest selves, and toward happiness. As Jim Manny writes in the dotMagis blog: “Finding out what we really want, we find out what God wants too, because God has planted his desires in our hearts.”
With so much at stake, our difficult circumstances are not always problems to solve but a path to walk, a path of inner discovery.