by David Truman

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Human will is a powerful thing. With its power, we can create great good, or a royal mess. That's a big responsibility -- and it's ours, whether we want it or not. So it should be of great interest to each of us how we use our will.

Most people use their will to pursue their own individual purposes -- often, without regard for the effects on anyone else. Because of that, willfulness has been associated with selfishness, pig-headedness, ambition, and opinionation. But the power of will can also be used to unite; to cooperate; and to participate in a wonderful, collaborative dance with God and our fellow man. Then, great beauty -- even miracles -- can happen.

Which will it be? You get to decide. So it's a good idea to get a handle on your will -- because more than anything else, how you use your will determines what your life will be.

The usual pattern

Growing children are always exercising will as a way of strengthening. Like little goats -- banging their heads against each other, jumping up on things, jumping down, pulling on this, pushing on that -- children (and adolescents) exercise sovereignty and sovereign will in many ways. And they do well -- a strong will is a useful thing to develop.

But how we use that will, once we've built it up into a veritable Hercules, is a very important matter.

Normally what happens is, early in life people exercise their will in ways that create trouble and conflict. Like the willful, needlessly rebellious teenager; or the opinionated college student who will never back down in a debate; or the lover or spouse who tries too hard to get their own way; etc. Selfish or misdirected willfulness invariably causes problems.

But then, usually, people see the pain they are creating for themselves and others, and they tone themselves down a bit. As they get older, they become mellower, more easygoing -- and less willful. This is certainly an improvement over being a bullheaded youth, but it is not a truly excellent and intelligent adjustment.

Consider, for example, the overly expressive man, who was forever hurting his loved ones by being too opinionated and forceful. In his old age, he clams up -- having decided it's futile to speak. This adaptation may be better than constantly causing pain, but it is far from ideal. The man has withdrawn his heart and intelligence from life -- and most likely, his loved ones miss it, in spite of the problems it created before.

The other option: the Life Divine

Fortunately, when it comes to how we use our will, there are more than two choices. We don't have to either create problems or withdraw. There is a way to use our will that is genuinely constructive: We can willfully align ourselves with the needs and desires of others, and with God. We can willfully surrender. But people don't generally consider that option.

This is where mankind goes wrong: We tend to think of free will as making us separate. "My will," you hear people say, with a sense of separation from everything and everyone. But it is possible to be willful as well as cooperative and surrendered -- in fact, that is how will can be most powerful.

Like in a football team: a player can assert tremendous will, and at the same time, cooperate with his teammates. And this is what makes his will useful, effective, powerful. If he were to ignore his teammates and try to win the game single-handedly, he would not be nearly as powerful, and he would most likely do his team more harm than good.

Human beings are social animals. We were born to be part of a team, and we feel good as part of a team. As part of a team, our individual talents and our passion can be best used, expressed, and honed.

In the Life Divine, we are soldiers in the army of truth. We have our own sovereign wills, but they are employed in the discharge of our missions. Our will is so aligned with God that we feel like an extension of God's will and intention -- not separate -- even with our "personal" contributions. And we feel free to bring our whole selves (talents, passions, and all) and throw them in.

Wholehearted selfishness is not possible

No one's heart will let them throw their whole self at a selfish purpose. Their heart simply does not approve of it. Their passion for selfishness is tempered by their soul sensitivity, their conscience, and their shame.

Sure, a person may put plenty of time and even energy into selfish pursuits. They may, in some sense, feel like they're bringing their all -- but they can't, not really. They will shut down internally. When we live selfishly, there is always a sense that one's heart is being withheld and suppressed. And that's because it is: if the heart had its way, we'd live more lovingly, cooperatively, and unselfishly. The heart is inherently a lover -- it won't stand behind a selfish life.

Consequently, a person is never really satisfied until they throw themselves in wholeheartedly, with a great will, to be part of God's work. To be in will-alignment with God and the needs of others -- that is a true spiritual life. And that is the only fulfilling life. That is where all satisfaction and all truth can be found, and where all that is false melts away. This is mankind's natural state -- to be in harmony.

Mankind's natural state

Why is it that we stew so much when we're out of sorts with somebody? Why does it trouble us so? Why is it that one disturbed relationship will cause us to lose our peace? Evidently, it grates against our soul something awful to be out of harmony. We want to be in harmony.

And similarly, when someone in our family or circle of intimates gets into a bad place, we are quick to try to help. Just as when we get an infection, or even a splinter, somewhere in the body, everything within us rushes to correct that. The entire body leaps to attention, making sure to protect and maintain all its parts. Mankind is the same. We naturally move to restore the harmony of the whole. We cannot forget one another. We cannot ignore the hurt in any member.

All of us are part of one family -- the family of God. What we feel, we all feel. There is no separation. And naturally, we share a common will. The selfish and separate pursuits we have embraced are an insult to our nature.

That's why, when you see a person suffering, you are moved to help them. That's why inequality or unfairness troubles your soul. That's why, if you ever betray someone or let someone down, you feel guilty. This is all an expression of the loving will we share in the family of God.

Yet the body needs its unique parts. And the family of God needs its members, its soldiers. We need every little bit of our family, to function and be happy. How could we be happy without brothers and sisters to talk to, to love, to get to know, to plan with and work with? Our individuality is both needed and celebrated in this oneness that we are!

One will

There is a universal will -- and it is love. And it is our will! Humanity will only be happy, at peace, and truly capable of supporting itself, when we align ourselves with that will -- which is the will of our very own hearts.

This is nothing esoteric or mysterious. Every moment we are faced with choices to either go with selfish will, or truly love: when we're considering whether or not to have more than our fair share of pie; when someone we love needs our attention, but we're enjoying the movie on TV; when we have a chance to either defend something right, or go with the crowd -- all of these are choices either for selfishness or love.

What we do is up to us. Free will reigns! But what we do also has effects -- on ourselves, and all. We'd do well to remember that, meditate on that, and choose wisely.

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