Personal Transformation Through Opposition

Personal Transformation Through Opposition

Written by Dr. Cory Reich, Ph.D., Posted on , in Section Editors Picks

What is the potential that exists in each one of us? What is one person able to do? Can one person truly change the world? 

Opposition itself has a demand quality to it. It has a way of compressing the attitude of apathy, stagnation, and procrastination and demands the need for a response to what you really believe. It is in this context of opposition that we are required to ask, “What really matters to me and what do I believe in?” Opposition is viewed as opposition only when we see that which is meaningful to us being threatened. Such attacks on our hopes and dreams often serve to cause a refocusing in our daily behaviors in purposeful pursuits.

Opposition and Transformation

To realize our potential, to pursue and actually experience the ideal we visualize and hope for in life, most of us will experience stressful periods. These life experiences will often be accompanied by tears and opposition, yet it is in this very process that we grow in wisdom and confidence as we work through them. In fact, many of the deepest feelings of gratification are the result of them. These transformational life experiences were identified by C.S. Lewis, who wisely characterized this principle when he provided the analogy of remodeling the human soul and a living house:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, and making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.” (Mere Christianity [New York: Macmillan, 1960], p. 174).

Dreams Require Company

When you think of what is possible in your life, be sure to imagine your ideal. Limitations are nonexistent except as we limit ourselves. However, also recognize that you cannot accomplish much alone. The understanding that the open heart and a willing mind helps you to show up, but humility, devotion and the support of others is what qualifies your abilities to be enough! Remodeling often begins as an inside job but expresses itself in serious efforts and through the support of others.

Opposition in Meaning

While stress is universal, stress expresses itself uniquely in each of us in the context of what is most important to us. The nature of stress-signatures and the corresponding opposition is tied specifically to the disparity between our personal evaluations of where we think we are in relation to where we want to be.

The remodeling effect illustrated in the analogy provided by C.S. Lewis highlights the nature of opposition as a constructive process of living a purposeful life. As remodeling takes place, opposition occurs both internally and externally, some as a result of our own choices, other life events are imposed upon us that we have little if any control over.

Opposition & Imperfection

Because we are imperfect, pain and suffering are common life experiences because of imperfect choices. All of us are aware of choices made or not made that have moved us away from our “ideal” causing stress and pain. Depending upon the level of importance in the area being challenged, the opposition may be felt more privately than publicly, while others will occur for all to see. The end result is that our regard for our self in that area of our life takes a serious hit.

The challenge rests in the way we view and evaluate both our intentions and our behavior. Retaining the belief that we are good trying to be good, we eliminate shame which is condemning and causes hopelessness. Believing in our goodness, we can look into the face of the opposition with hope that we will learn and the future realization of our “dream” is possible.

In humility, we accept that we are not perfect, yet we claim our confidence in knowing we are committed. It is in this integrity of genuine desire and effort we can now evaluate the choice and become a student of life. Such an attitude and stance to our imperfect nature and the opposition that occurs as a result, helps us reconcile with our self and improve our regard for self. Equally, reconciliation in relationships also occurs, as we seek to apologize and with renewed and educated intentions, returning to the path of meaning in the direction of the desired ideal.

The awareness of self-imposed opposition most often occurs in poor coping skills to achieve meaning, or the reaction of meaning being threatened. Acting from an emotion of fear, anger, resentment, or any other ego driven orientation invites our imperfect nature to be expressed. It is critical that we strive to slow down our “reaction” in life to be “proactive” in what is meaningful.

Opposition & Life

Opposition provides one of the most effective conditions to heighten the relevance and your answers to the questions of: Who are you? Why are you? How do you feel about who you are? and What you are doing about it? Moved from the ideology of your mind and out to the application in life, your current “real” answers to life questions are demonstrated.

It is in the opposition that we are able to learn so much about ourselves! Are we able to forgive others when we are wronged? Do we continue in our hope when outcomes do not come as expected? Do we live in compassion when those we love are taken or we are betrayed? Do we have faith in life when disasters occur?

The only way to know, is to live through the experience and see how we do. Remember, the purpose of life is to learn and grow. The evaluation does not require perfection, but progression towards the ideal. The only way for this to occur is to learn and grow through experience. It is through these experiences that we learn that our choices are often not so much right over wrong, or good vs. evil, but higher goods over lessor goods.

Choice: Is There A Good, Better, Best?

Your belief that you can make choices and more effectively close the gap between the actual and ideal is the heart behind your commitment and choice of action. In reality, there are a lot of paths to accomplish things in life, some are good, while others are better, and some are even best. I learned this lesson as a young boy when I was required to complete a chore.

When I was a young teenager I had several friends sleep over one summer night. As we slept outside under the stars, talking about what matters to young teenagers, we apparently kept my parents up much of the night. At 6:30 am my mother woke me up, instructing me that I would be weeding in the yard for the day. The natural consequence for keeping them up during the night was that I would work the day as they were required to.

As my mother showed me the task at hand, she knew that it would take longer than a day to weed it correctly. Now, my mind, not considering at the moment that there was necessarily a good, better, best, focussed exclusively on having the weeds gone. After my mom left, I grabbed the shovel and began turning the soil. It was amazing how quickly the weeds disappeared below the dirt. I had completed my job in three hours and off to hang with my friends. Surely this was good, after all, the weeds were gone.

Well, it only took a few days before the weeds came back. My mother, who I believed knew from the very beginning what I had done, allowed the experience to play out to teach me a lesson. She gently but firmly asked, “Cory, did you pull the weeds or bury them?” I of course indicated that I had buried them. She merely said, you need to do it again, but pull the weeds.

The next day, as I began, the ground was hard and clumpy and pulling the weeds was a slow and difficult task. Pulling the weeds was certainly better than turning the weeds in the soil, but it was much harder. I only completed about half of the designated area after a full day of work. When my mom returned from work at the end of the day, she inspected the area. As I explained how hard it was, she told me that the best way to pull the weeds was to soak the dirt with water and the weeds would come out easier.

The next day, I took the time to spray the soil with water. Just as my mom told me, the weeds came out easier and the job was completed. This last method was certainly the best way to complete my task. Since that time I have reflected often on the lesson I learned about good, better, best.

While opposition is unique to personal life circumstances, your perception, assessment, your choice in coping with your opposition guides the transformational experience to reach your ideal. Always consider that there may be a good, better, best way to accomplish your goals and achieve your ideal. Short-cuts and half measures will rarely work. Asking for support and suggestions is critical, with the best way almost always not being the easiest, however it will be the most effective.