Intentions and Actions – By Cherry Haisten

Apprentices are aware of Dallas Willard’s way of looking at growth and change:  VIM.  VIMVIM stands for Vision, Intention, and Means.  We have an idea of what God is calling us to do.  We need Intention and Means (methods) to carry out the dream.  Here is an interesting discussion by Cherry Haisten of what intention actually involves and what keeps us from carrying out intentions:

“The split between intentions and actions seems to be a universal of human experience.  The apostle Paul poignantly captures our human dilemma in his famous passage from Romans [Romans 7:15-20].  We want one thing and proceed to do something entirely different.  We intend one thing and do another.,  Intention is a conscious aim or purpose toward something   It grows out of deliberation.  If we live intentionally, we live with a purpose deliberately in mind and we pay attention to whether we are keeping our intention moment by moment. Intention implies a conscious choice on some level of awareness. . . .

However, no matter how clear we may be about our intention, we may find it very difficult to carry it out, to live it wholly.  What gets in our way?  Often our unconscious motivations.VIM quote . . . Motivation is what prompts us to action. . . . In early childhood our motivations are appropriately developmental.  Our needs for affection and esteem, control and power, safety and security move us to actions that will get those needs met.  When a set of actions is successful in getting our needs met, the actions are reinforced and we repeat them.  As we rely on the same set of actions again and again, our pattern of behavior establishes a lifetime program for happiness.  .  . .  As we mature the pattern ceases to work the way it once did, yet like robots with only one or two programmed options for behavior, we continue in the same pattern over and over again hoping that they will eventually lead to the same success they did in infancy by bringing us happiness and contentment.

The motivations of many of our actions, if not most, grow out of these old programs.  On a conscious level our motivation may be synonymous with our intention – to love and serve God, to practice God’s presence in every moment, to be an instrument of God’s peace and love in the world; on an unconscious level our pure motivation is laced with the desire of our false selves for affection/esteem, control/power, and safety/security.  .  .  .

As a result of this complex dynamic, our motives are usually mixed.  Like Mary of Bethany’s sister Martha, we many times do the right thing for the wrong reasons.  Like Martha, we lose sight of our deepest and purest intention when we get all tangled up in those mixed motives. . . Mary’s over-identification with her role as the perfect hostess keeps her in the kitchen rather than listening to Jesus with Mary.  As a result, she is jealous of Mary and angry.  . . . In situations such as this one mixed motivations rule.  The deepest motive is to serve but other motivations create a complex web of emotions . . . . What would it be like to sit at the foot of the Master?  Why does Mary get to sit there when I’m stuck in here.  Why doesn’t she ever help with the cooking?  Who does she think she is?  How does she think everything is going to get done if she doesn’t ever pitch in?

Feelings of anger and jealousy  or other intense emotions may be symptoms that we are attached to our homemade programs for happiness and that our choices are leading us away from what God intends for us.”

From The Practice of Welcoming Prayer (pp. 6-7)  a handout from The Center for Action and Contemplation.

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1 Response to Intentions and Actions – By Cherry Haisten

  1. Kathleen Coveny says:

    Wow – this was well written and to the point. The Mary/Martha story has been a challenge for me. Something I would like a little group discussion on.

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