Can’t or won’t?

As a child, I remember saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”  However the words we use can be damaging to ourselves or to others. The language we  choose, especially for self-talk, can influence our outlook negatively or positively.

After a long day at work, I was on my way to the fitness center for a short workout but I really just wanted to go home. That thought kept going through my head: I don’t want to be here.  I also had  certain expectations of how my workout would go. After getting into the swing of it, I was waiting for the wave of energy to kick in. Instead, it seemed to just get harder. ‘I can’t do this,’ I thought to myself. I wanted to stop and sit down. But after sitting all day at a computer, I knew this was the best thing for me. I’ve done this workout for weeks, I thought, why was it so hard today? Why did it feel like it was impossible?

Is it can’t or is it won’t? I didn’t really want to work out when I drove to the center. Was my lack of  enthusiasm for working out making me feel that I was incapable of doing so? Since I had been working out regularly, I knew I could do it. Maybe it was more about the expectations I had about how the workout would go. It seemed that my efforts were being blocked because I really didn’t want to exercise.  I did keep going, but at a slower and more deliberate pace, and I let go of my expectations.  In the end I was able to not only finish the workout, but to feel good about completing it.  

While exercise is vital for the body to function properly, we also need to ‘exercise’ our spiritual soul. How often do we say we can’t do something, like weekday Mass, adoration or a rosary, but what we really mean is that we won’t. We let our feelings or our expectations get in the way. Sometimes, even when we get into a groove, we can face a challenge. However, if we persevere it will be to the betterment of our soul.

The call for perseverance is issued throughout the Scriptures. Jesus even questions, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8) We are not promised that our choices will be easy or our tasks without effort. But it’s when we continue on, even during our hardships that we come closer to God. “Happy the man who holds out to the end through trial! Once he has been proved, he will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12).


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