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.
Thank you for sharing this Jim, well written. A simple how God chose us to show the love He had for us. Each day when I’m teaching here in California or in China my desire is to love my students and to show them when they fail it is ok, because they are given many chances to show what they can do and by doing this I can see the beautiful things they create and they realize the wonderful potential they have.
Well said. It sounds like your students will not have to unlearn incorrect pictures of God later in their lives.
That is my prayer each day…to show my students the love of God and know everyone is able to reach their full potential.
Jim, Your commentary really inspired some thinking on my part. I think I think (not sure) that the early followers of Christ were more or less rebels—they dared to think differently, and they must have quested for freedom in their thinking. I remember Bill saying to be human is to be born to conflict because of internal wars we wage re our needs. I think of the Scots who were loyal to bonnie prince Charlie (not so sure he was bonnie nor princely, but…) and how they fought and were willing to die to restore the throne to the Church—and then he went and renounced his Catholicism. I wonder if they felt their loyalty was greeted with betrayal. Those early followers (who later came to be called Christians) did dare to be different, often at great peril to themselves if we can believe our history lessons. I wonder about this—I think maybe at the time they were nonreligious in terms of conventional organized religion. The American revolutionaries were certainly rebels in their thinking: at the time, the British would have called them trailtors. It seems we have vocabularies for extraordinary people who dare to follow freedom in their thinking; in fact, their behaviors are thinking behaviors as those thoughts lead to chosen actions others might fault. It is a solid reminder not to sit in judgment of those who think differently (provided their thinking does not do harm to others), but to listen deeply and remember something akin to awe.
I haven’t responded to this yet, but I will. The new Spring quarter started yesterday at PUC and I have been a bit involved with that. I look forward to giving what you have written some thinking time.
Really well-put, and thanks for including that Desire of Ages quote. Really helped clarify the idea of choice theory from a spiritual (or even religious) perspective.
Desire of Ages has been a go-to book for me since college days. I have never tired of reading it. I can’t say that about too many books.