I recently heard about a conversation that took place between some members of my extended family. The question they were apparently attempting to answer was, Why does Harry take the time to write a religious article every week? They came to the conclusion that I probably have some deep-seated guilt about my past that compels me to write. Writing a weekly article is apparently the only way I can atone for my guilt.
When I heard about the discussion, I was amused that people who really don’t know me as well as they think they do would waste their time attempting to figure me out. I’m 58 years old and I’m still trying to figure myself out.
I’ve written before about the annual Catholic men’s retreats that I attended during the 1990s. The retreat master was Fr. John Hardin. Every year, Fr. Hardin made it clear to the men who were in attendance that we had an obligation to spread the Catholic faith through the written word. He emphasized that writing was not an option. It was an obligation.
I suppose the question of why I take time out of my busy schedule every week to write is a worthwhile question to ask. That question would be relevant in any situation in which someone showed that he or she had the ambition and drive to accomplish something that most other people were unwilling or unable to accomplish.
Consider the following questions:
• What motivated my parents to adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church and have 17 children, while most of their friends and relatives decided to take the easy route of defying church law by using contraceptive birth control to limit the size of their families?
• What motivated your parish priest to forego marriage and a family of his own so he could dedicate his life to God through the Sacrament of Holy Orders?
• What motivated Donald Trump to become a billionaire?
• What motivated Steve Jobs to work seven days a week to create electronic devices that would forever alter the way we communicate and interact with each other?
• What motivated my wife’s parents to immigrate to the United States when their newborn baby was only four months old?
The key word in each of these questions is “motivated.”
What is it that motivates a person to accomplish something that is unique, unusual, out of the ordinary, or heroic? You could argue that high achievers are smarter, more disciplined, or more connected than others, but that wouldn’t be enough to explain their apparent eagerness to sacrifice for extended periods of time in order achieve their goals.
Most people fail to set and achieve big, bold, long-term goals because they lack the motivation to do so. Even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t know how to go about creating or manufacturing the motivation needed to dig in and move forward.
So here’s the correct question to ask: How can a person create the motivation that is necessary to achieve something that is unique, unusual, out of the ordinary, or heroic?
The definition of the word “motivate” is “to provide with a reason for doing something.” So the answer to my question — How can a person create the motivation that is necessary to achieve something that is unique, unusual, out of the ordinary, or heroic — lies within the definition of motivate. In order to create the motivation that fuels the drive and determination to set and achieve a long-term goal, there must be enough reasons to create a burning desire within a person to single-mindedly and aggressively move towards and accomplish the goal, regardless of the obstacles that lie ahead.
There are reasons why I force myself to write every week. I already talked about one reason — my sense of obligation to share my faith with others through the written word. Other reasons include:
• My desire to please God so that He will welcome me into His Kingdom after I die.
• My desire to create a legacy for my children and grandchildren — a written record that that they can refer to and learn from in the future.
• My sense of obligation to use the gifts God gave me to teach others about Him.
• My desire to increase my ability to communicate my thoughts and beliefs in a clear and concise manner — skills that are refined by putting my thoughts and beliefs in writing.
• By committing to write an article every week by a predetermined deadline, I force myself to develop greater self-discipline and confidence.
In addition to my own personal reasons for writing, there’s another motivating force that is invisible to me and others. It’s a force that I am unable to explain or understand. It’s the same force that transforms sinners into saints.
The force I’m referring to is the Holy Spirit who acts to motivate devout Catholics who are willing and eager to go above and beyond what the church requires of them.
If we were able to assemble a team of the top psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, and other behavioral experts to analyze what motivated Mother Teresa and Saint John Paul II, while the experts would be able to come up with some legitimate reasons for their behavior, they would not be able to identify the invisible force that motivated Mother Teresa and John Paul II to become heroic Catholics.
The same force that motivated Mother Teresa, John Paul II, and all the other saints — the Holy Spirit — is waiting to motivate you and me to do His work. But He won’t act unless and until we open up a special line of communication with Him. What is the most efficient and effective line of communication that we can establish with the Holy Spirit? I’ll let you know next week.