Two weeks after New Year’s Day – a day when resolutions are often made to commit for the rest of the year to personal goals, special life projects or reforming of a bad habit – many of us are having problems keeping to those resolutions.
While we know that losing weight, exercising, giving up alcohol or smoking, improving diet, getting out of debt or saving money, learning a new language and being kinder are all things that can improve us, changing habits is very difficult and, for many, all but impossible.
Yet, according to Father Richard Rohr, transformation is not a question of will but of software.
I had a chance to talk to Father Richard at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, N.M., last fall in conjunction with the release of his newest book, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2011).
“Transformation,” the Franciscan priest said, “is not giving people new information inside their own old software, but it is giving them new software. You change the seer, you don’t just tell them what to see.”
He describes in his book how 12-step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous, works because its starting place is not about validating one’s own beliefs about one’s self or the world or drawing distinctions between people, but rather that we are all weak human beings. It is, he said in my interview with him, “concrete dealing with my own humanity, with my own failure, with my own truthfulness.”
But how does your personal “software” get changed?
The change, he said, is the way reality is processed: to see your life honestly and truthfully and “allow the mysterious part to remain.”
“Contemplation helps you see, to break through that. What many people call thinking is acutally a constricted process. It isn’t really open to truth or to reality or to anything that is unflattering to my country, to my political party, to my religion, to my race, to my gender,” Father Richard said.
“Most people,” he said, “do not see things as they are, they see things as THEY are. That’s how we are addicted to our thinking.”
How you see things, he stressed, is how you become. If one “doesn’t go around creating enemies, creating problems with everybody, that person becomes a compassionate person, a patient person, what we would call a loving person.”
That person, ultimately, becomes someone who can accept faults in one’s spouse, children, friends and family members and love them all for who they are. That person is someone who can find real transformation built on the foundation of honestly of accepting one’s humanness with all of its faults and limitations.
Photo top: Father Richard Rohr, author of Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2011), at the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, N.M. (Photo by Mark Lombard)