Character change is an uncomfortable prospect for every single one of us; no one willingly enters into the confronting process of character growth and transformation without some external influence that meets with their own internal motivation.
Often the external influence for growth appears forced. We knuckle down because our options to do something else more comfortable have dried up.
The journey of character transformation is replete with many opportunities to swing outside of our comfort zones, in finding, through new ways of exploration, new cohesiveness of identity. But, there is always disequilibrium, anxiety, and resistance to meet with along way. So there are many threats to effective growth, and therein lies the advantage of therapy and coaching to get us through the discomfort to the eventual incorporation of new competencies.
New cohesiveness of identity is a state of enhanced character; of higher, better self-knowledge and relationship with God.
The Cycle of Comfort
As thinking, feeling creatures, with many layers of unconscious self-protection that we have learned, we are drawn to remain in the cycle of comfort. We don’t want to be exposed to our vulnerabilities. We want to remain where life is safe and predictable and pleasurable. The cycle of comfort meets that inherent aim. Safety and security is our aim, and to reach the state of comfort is our goal. But if we are to grow in character – which is God’s will for our life – then there will be plenty of stimuli to that end, and it will be some external influence that will set us on our way.
The dissatisfaction of being in a rut will be our motivation to enter the cycle of discomfort and growth.
The diligent disciple prays to become self-aware and to courageously commit to the cycle of discomfort and growth.
The Cycle of Discomfort and Growth
Again it must be said, our flesh and self-protective instinct seeks to avoid this territory. We have a fearful hatred of challenges to our identity. As soon as we have become dissatisfied enough to seek for growth, we have achieved a state of disequilibrium, which creates anxiety, and in turn involves the temptation to resist the very growth we are after. We can so easily vacillate between two divergent poles.
The key watch point is a moment of fear or of pride that presents as resistance. Whenever we resist the inputs for growth and transformation we do well to simply rest and reflect, before we are pushed too far and resist altogether. The mode of resistance is a key point along the journey, and we should call the resistance for what it is. Resistance is fear, but it shouldn’t be judged. It should be anticipated and welcomed before it is creatively dealt with.
Once we have met the resistance head on we are likely to enter positive exploration, which has as its danger the state of deserting the plan for some ‘higher’ and more salubrious vision. We need sufficient restraint to stay focused and do what we need to do in establishing the component of the new self toward new cohesiveness of identity.
Character growth hurts because it involves the pain of external influence. If we can still our anxiety, understand and accept our resistance, and focus when we are distracted, new cohesion of identity is possible.
With humility to pass our tests of integrity, character growth is ours.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.