One of the biggest realizations from learning about choice theory is the understanding that our behavior comes from within us – the product of our thinking and our choices. A thought or behavior might be self-generated, a creative urge that appears to have no connection to our environment, or it may be influenced by our circumstances, and thus be a response to an opportunity or to trouble. But in either case our behavior is ultimately the result of our thinking and our choice to act.
Like a sunrise on a glorious day, as the implications of our internal design become clear we begin to perceive the power and freedom that is ours to reach out and take hold of. Rather than being pawns on some universal chessboard or puppets in somebody else’s play, we realize that we can choose our course of action. This freedom and power are especially significant when it comes to our spiritual lives. A quote from Desire of Ages reminded me of this freedom –
All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own impulses. Desire of Ages, p.668
What a wonderful way to comment on the essence of choice theory. Our ability to live well and choose well, in alignment with God’s will for us, springs out of our mind and heart. And Christ fully “got” this. He knew how He designed us and He sought to be freely chosen by us in the same way that He freely chooses us. It is interesting that this kind of obedience is qualified as true obedience, as opposed to . . . false obedience? Could it be that false obedience is the kind of behavior that is forced on us or pressured on us? And that we “obey” when certain people are present or simply to dodge a punishment?
It is so cool that as we come into a loving and belonging relationship with God, and as we choose to internalize His influence, “that when obeying Him we are but carrying out our own impulses.” Some see God as arbitrary, severe, controlling, and unforgiving, but these attributes are the exact opposite of what God is like. Rather than arbitrary He created us with creativity and the ability to choose from multiple options; rather than severe and unforgiving He is patient, long suffering, and affirming; and rather than controlling He is committed to our freedom.
How we relate to our children reflects our picture of God. Many of us are in the process of unlearning the pictures our parents and teachers modeled to us and instead are learning about the gentle way that God works with us. Choice theory, with its focus on solutions rather than blame, and guidance rather than punishment, provides adults with a framework that accurately reflects how God works with us. Better that our children learn about a love and belonging God, rather than having to unlearn pictures of an arbitrary, controlling one.