Have you noticed that many people around you, including perhaps even a few of us reading this are greatly inclined to have people and events go “our own way.” What underlies this attitude is that situations not going our way are interpreted and perceived as awful and terrible, basically a catastrophe. If things do not go the way I want them to go or people do not meet my demanding expectations I can react with anxiety, depression or feel I have the right to be angry. Unfortunately, making the title of the popular Frank Sinatra song, “My Way,” the theme guiding our lives can lead to emotional and behavioral dysfunction, interpersonal conflict, at times, even lead to breaking of the law with legal consequences as well as to spiritual separation from God and man.
Psychologists tell us (Burns, 1980; Ellis, 1962; Morelli, 2006) that people and events are going to be the way they are. Situations and people’s actions are not the way we want them to be. None of us were born with a ‘certificate’ or ‘guarantee’ that people’s behaviors and life events will go our way. Having our own way of thinking is basically unrealistic. It is a self set of rules, created by ourselves that exist only in our own minds. It is not the way the world operates in reality. Yes, it is often even unfair.
Christians readily pray, and apply to themselves, the prayer of Christ when confronting the unfairness of the arrest, agony, passion and crucifixion He was about to encounter: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Mt 26:39) We can meditate on the words of God to Jonah (4:10) in the desert when a plant which provided needed shade withered and died: “And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night, and perished in a night.” The Koran would counsel to leave all in the hands of God: “Think not that Allah doth not heed the deeds of those who do wrong. He but giveth them respite against a Day when the eyes will fixedly stare in horror” (Surah 14, Verse 42). The writer of the Book of Proverbs (9: 7-10) readily eschews following one’s own way of thinking and foresees the consequence of such thinking: “He who corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Psychologically, we can challenge the irrational self-rules we have constructed by asking the question: “Is there any “law in the universe” that proves: My Way as being the general law of world operation? Spiritually, we may reflect on and apply the wisdom of the saintly Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Ageloglou, 1998): “We should do whatever can be humanly achieved; the rest which is beyond our power, must be left in God’s hands. God tolerates everybody. Therefore, we should also tolerate others. It is egotistical to believe you are able to correct other people.”
Ageloglou, Priestmonk Christodoulos. (1998). Elder Paisios of The Holy Mountain. Mt. Athos, Greece: Holy Mountain
Burns, D. (1980). Feeling Good. NY: William Morrow.
Ellis, A. (1962). Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart.
Morelli, G. (2006, March 6). Asceticism and Psychology in the Modern World. http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/MorelliMonasticism.php.
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V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.
Fr. Morelli is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.
Fr. Morelli is a Senior Fellow at the Sophia Institute, an independent Orthodox Advanced Research Association and Philanthropic Foundation housed at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City that serves as a gathering force for contemporary Orthodox scholars, theologians, spiritual teachers, and ethicists.
Fr. Morelli serves on the Executive Board of the San Diego Cognitive Behavior Therapy Consortium (SDCBTC)
Fr. Morelli serves as Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.
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