Building Spiritual Muscles

barbellContinued from here.

The way to develop strong muscles is to first break them down. When I do bicep curls, I am breaking down the muscle in my biceps, and this process causes short-term physical discomfort. If I push myself particularly hard, I might feel soreness for a couple of days. As my bicep muscles build themselves back up, they grow back stronger than when they were broken down because they know more strength is needed to withstand the pressure that was previously placed upon them.

The same concept applies spiritually, assuming I chose to view the circumstances in my physical life as a spiritual workout. Using the example of developing patience, each time someone does something annoying, I have a choice – I can react using my physical nature by fighting back, or I can choose a spiritual reaction of meekness: bridling my kneejerk reaction and choosing to extend grace rather than anger.

My teenage son recently did something that annoyed me while driving (he has his learner’s permit), and I was tired, so my initial reaction flowed out of the physical realm. I saw the potential danger, particularly while he was behind the wheel, and did not react in a patient or kind way. He reacted to my physical response, and things could have spiraled out of control quickly. Thankfully, I have been exercising my muscles for patience for a long time, so I was able to rein in my reaction and not do the dance of one-upping each other in our anger. Instead, I was able to de-escalate the situation so that we were soon laughing and no longer angry. I even humbled myself to apologize for my crankiness and got a very rare hug from my son!

I would not have been able to react this way (particularly when tired) had I not been exercising the spiritual muscle of patience. In the moment, I needed to see a bigger picture. The conflict with my son really wasn’t about the words we were using. Spiritual unity is more important than “being right” and is a much more effective tool in redirecting behavior than seeking to dominate someone else using physical words.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lifting a barbell. Courtesy Bitmoji.]