26 January 2023

In the era of life coaching and positive thinking, people need prescriptions, practical solutions. The less we think, the better. In fact, if we happen upon some special ‘dispenser’ then we’re more than happy. We go along with them, read, and are willing to adopt ‘magic solutions’. We don’t feel that life takes effort. Unless you have a vision, i.e. unless you have a goal at which to aim, an attitude to life that’ll help you in difficulties but will also give you a different benchmark in any joy you feel so that you’re able to distinguish it from passing pleasure that fades like a flower, then, in reality, no matter how many prescriptions you follow, you’ll never be able to stand on your own two feet and will never find the true way forward.

For this to happen, clearly someone needs to support you, to listen to you and to advise you. But we need to feel inside ourselves that, whatever we undertake, if we don’t adopt it wholeheartedly and fight for it, we won’t achieve anything. At the same time we should be thinking that, whatever we have in mind, whatever prescription’s given to us, the freedom of other people is the key. Parents might hear the greatest suggestions from specialists, but their child might not want them to be applied. On the other hand, how many times, as parents, have we felt unable to impose even the loosest boundaries on our children? Because we love them we’re always prepared to justify their behavior, to overlook their mistakes, not to require that these mistakes should have consequences, so that the children will become more responsible and that they should realize that life doesn’t owe us anything, however much we want something or think we deserve it, even if we really do. The path of life needs a vision. It needs a context which will provide an answer to the question: ‘Where are we going?’. And there’s no prescription for this, precisely because we’re not alone and reality’s made up of our encounters with other people.

Someone might then say ‘Better not to have any suggestions at all, then, given that the solutions demand struggle and perspective’. But that’s not right, either. We must simply not be content with prescriptions, particularly those which pander to our ego instead of pointing to ways that involve suffering. The cross looks like defeat. But along with it comes resurrection. We obviously need suggestions. We also need patience, however, if we’re going to flourish. Tangible results won’t come at once. Even if we have the feeling that they have, in fact, come, the next round will show us that there’s still time ahead of us and that permanent solutions don’t just arrive at our pleasure.

Young people have ‘here and now’ as part of their psychological makeup. This is why politicians, communication specialists, advertisers and promoters of consumer culture depend on the immediate satisfaction of desires. So, the adolescent psychology spreads until it becomes common to all, with the result that we have no patience any more. We find ourselves in a world of impressions, dominated by those who make the most noise or are the most charismatic and promise to make everything easy. Our faith tells us that, if we wish to encounter Christ, apart from the ‘come and see’, there’s also the requirement of the narrow gate. So that love may be retained. So that Christ may be retained in our heart.