Last week, I conducted a nutrition counseling session with a sweet older woman. She was looking for help with losing weight; she had gained weight and it was aggravating her arthritis.
As we explored her lifestyle and eating habits, she shared that her sense of taste had diminished recently. She found herself overeating the foods she used to enjoy in moderation, like chips, because she kept hoping the next bite would taste the way she remembered.
We laughed together about how her wishful thinking was understandable, but not really realistic. By the end of our session, she planned to use her impaired sense of taste to her advantage. She would eat more healthy foods that she used to avoid because she didn’t like their taste.
Later, I was thinking about how I can fall into that unrealistic “this time it will be different” mindset. Sure, optimism is often a good thing, but sometimes it can be a spiritual pitfall.
I sincerely want to believe the best in people, but sometimes this desire gets warped into expecting the best from people.
I want to believe that my 5-year-old will just sit and listen attentively during Mass, but he has consistently shown me he is not capable of that yet. He needs toys or activity books for at least part of Mass. Yet somehow, I get frustrated when he acts his age, like he always does, as if he was supposed to have magically developed an adult attention span overnight.
Those times when I stop holding on to “this time will be different” thinking and, instead, plan for the likely, everyone involved is happier and less frustrated. And perhaps, one day, I will bring the activity book and he won’t need it.
I won’t fall this time
Likewise, I really want to believe that I learn from my mistakes and won’t fall into the same sins again. But sometimes that old “this time will be different” mentality recklessly leads me right into temptation.
I know the last 10 times I sat next to Becca during the staff meeting, I ended up gossiping, but this time is going to be different. I will just smile and change the subject … but no, Becca, I didn’t hear Sandy was getting divorced! Why do you think they split up … And just like that, I fall right into a sin I could have easily avoided by sitting next to Jennifer instead.
I need to be realistic with myself about my weaknesses and avoid near occasions of sin, no matter how wishful my thinking is about my ability to rise above temptation.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not arguing that we should all go around expecting the worst of ourselves and others all the time, but the unfounded belief that a situation, temptation, or person’s behavior is going to change just because we want it to will likely only serve to disappoint and discourage us. To paraphrase a famous quote from St. Augustine: Pray as though God will make the situation change. Approach it as though it will not.
Copyright 2020 Monica Portogallo