The Path of Resistance
"Whatever you fight, you strengthen,
and what you resist, persists."
– Eckhart Tolle
Writing monthly reflections about our congregational themes is always challenging for me. For starters, there’s that blank screen to consider. But before long, there are far too many ideas, coming way too quickly and disjointedly, requiring substantial reorganizing before I am able to wrangle the words into some kind of coherent communication. After writing about The Path of Finding Our Center (January), the reflections for The Path of Love (February) and The Path of Vulnerability (March) were increasingly difficult. But nothing quite compares to writing this reflection about The Path of Resistance for the month of April.
I should have known this one would be particularly challenging – after all, it’s all about resistance! But the folks at Soul Matters also told me so. “Out of all our themes this year,” they warned, “resistance is among the most complex.” Then they followed up with a stunner: “But it also may be the most simple.” (Simple?)
I started my exploration of this month’s theme by reading the Soul Matters Ministry Packet for the month of April, followed by a visit to an online dictionary, which defined “resistance” as “the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.” That definition is more complicated than it at first seems, however, because resistance can produce both positive and negative results, sometimes simultaneously.
Resistance, for example, can take the form of fighting bravely against social injustice by picking up a picket sign and marching to demand much-needed change, like the citizens of Paris and Israel are doing as I write these words. At other times, we need to cease that type of resistance and go in another direction. Mother Theresa expressed that position when she said, “I will never attend an anti-war rally. If you have a peace rally, invite me.” Soul Matters sums up this dichotomy: “Resistance certainly takes the form of speaking the truth to power, but often what the world needs even more is for us to speak the truth in love.” Clearly, resistance is very complicated and takes multiple, sometimes contradictory, paths.
My own exploration of The Path of Resistance this month has so far led me to explore how resistance can get in the way of our ability to experience joy in our personal lives. In her essay entitled, “What You Resist, Persists – What You Accept, Transforms,” Dr. Sophia Godkin (AKA “The Happiness Doctor”) recalls the Sisyphus myth from Greek mythology. King Sisyphus was condemned to Hades by having to push a huge boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down every time he got it to the top of the hill. We immediately assume that pushing the rock is unpleasant and hard, and having it roll back down is bad. But, "There is no inherent difference," Dr. Godkin maintains. "We create ideas of good and bad … of hope and disappointment in everything we experience.” Our life’s struggles come from our judgments – believing that what is happening shouldn’t be happening, or that our lives should be unfolding in some way other than the ways they are. “We are all – in some way, shape, or form throughout our daily lives – trying to escape a reality that we don’t prefer,” she explains.
"It's not what happens to you,
but how you react to it that matters."
Our resistance to reality can take many forms. We judge it. We argue with it. We yell at it. We do whatever we can to avoid it. The avoidance of present-day reality can manifest in many negative ways, such as drinking, smoking, and overeating. We even try to get others to buy into the story we’re telling about ourselves and the way things are – and are not – in our lives. “If we want to get better at authentic living, truthful connection, and genuine happiness, then [we need to] open up to another way of meeting this thing called reality,” Dr. Godkin suggests.
Spiritual leader Panache Desai says, “Accept what life has served to you, and you will naturally move into more.” Resisting reality will not change it, no matter how hard we try. The place where we have true agency is in how we respond to our circumstances. When we resist reality, we create unnecessary suffering; the willingness to accept life as it is avoids that suffering, and ultimately leads to contentment and joy.
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Are you interested in learning more about your own relationship to Resistance? Each month, Soul Matters provides a list of provocative questions we can ask ourselves about the theme. Below is a sampling of the questions we may want to consider this month as we travel The Path of Resistance:
Has your resistance to change grown or eased as you’ve gotten older?
What change in your life do you wish you had not resisted?
What problematic emotion is hardest for you to resist – jealousy? pessimism? spite? judgmentalism? wanting to be right? wanting to always win?
Is life trying to lead you down a road you’ve long resisted?
Are you resisting looking at a truth in your life right now?
Seeking more inspiration and wisdom about The Path of RESISTANCE?
Check out the Soul Matters Overview here, and the complete Small Group Ministry packet here.