‘If you align your will with rights, you won’t make the progress you should’ (Abba Dorotheos).
The will is a gift from God to us. Those who distort the teaching of the Church and say that God wants us to be his slaves, to do whatever he wants without a choice, are wrong.
From the beginning of our history on the earth, the will has been a feature of our existence, since we’re made in the image of God. The will is linked to our freedom. We’re free to want something out of love for God and observance of his commandments; and we’re free to make ourselves gods. This is why the will and the right to renounce our self is freedom and gives us freedom.
These days we deify the will and also our rights. Rights are given to us as individuals, but have to do with society, the whole, the community, collegiality, since individuals can’t survive without others. That would be a denial of our nature, which depends on relationships to survive. And yet, the discussion today revolves around our personal rights. But what meaning is there to living without those who love you or without those whom you love? Growing towards maturity involves recognizing that love takes precedence over any rights. Of course, rights are what stop us behaving in an arbitrary way. But in the end, the meaning of life is more important than they are. The immature get no further than their rights. But mature people invoke rights to define their position and to protect themselves, but also know how to transcend them through love.
The same is true of the will. When the will is directed solely at survival or the acknowledgement of the ego, when it takes no notice of other people, it then breeds self-centered personalities incapable of becoming ‘we’. Such people are like the rich who have houses so luxurious that they’re the envy of all and sundry, but who don’t actually need them in order to become happier, as they discover, sooner or later. The will easily becomes a stone that we cast at God when he doesn’t give us what we want, ignoring the fact that he sees further ahead in our life and also knows what’s best for us. This is why he may sometimes allow many great trials to befall us. And the will can also become a stone to throw at other people. We become indifferent to the consequences of our choices, we couldn’t care less if we hurt other people and, in the final analysis, overlook the fact that we’ve gained the world, but lost what makes us truly alive: love, kindness, forgiveness and giving way in order to achieve peace.
Nowadays, the will and rights are dominant. Maltreatment of the weak is punishable when the law is broken. But when we crush other people spiritually, because ‘it’s our right’, when we care nothing for the whole and deify ourselves, our fears, our views and our choices, then, sooner or later, we’ll find ourselves faced with rejection and loneliness. True freedom is to put love over rights. And let’s teach this to our children. They have to learn to recognize boundaries, but also to transcend them. That will stand them in good stead as far as genuine relationships are concerned, because they’ll know how to choose.