February 27, 2007

You Outta Wanna

Three decades ago, performance technologists Mager and Pipe wrote about the "oughta wanna's" - the things we (or others) should be doing, know we should be doing, and still don't. I read their article today, and it started me thinking about the oughta-wannas that we struggle with in our lives as Christians.

There are four reasons to not do something you "oughta wanna":
  1. You'll be punished in some way for doing it
  2. You'll be rewarded for doing something else
  3. It doesn't matter to you
  4. Something prevents you

Our history with the "oughta wanna" goes all the way back to Eden. Adam and Eve ought to have wanted to obey God. They knew it was the right thing to do, yet they chose to disobey. We know Jesus told us to love one another, including our enemies. We know God commands us to "keep holy the sabbath day". What makes these things so hard to do?

Let's just look at one issue - attending Mass. (Notice I don't say "going to"; going to Mass is a problem in and of itself, but I'm being a bit loftier here and using "attending" as in "paying attention to".)

  • Some of us see going to Mass as a punishment. We lose better than an hour of our day. We have to sit through a homily that could be used to force out confessions from criminals. What did I do to deserve this?
  • For some, its rewarding to stay home on a nice Sunday morning. (Or, for that matter, to stay out of the weather when its snowing or raining.. or looks like it might be chilly. Was that a snowflake?)
  • For some, it just doesn't matter. Of course, that includes people that don't believe. For those that do, they know God will forgive them. God understands that I can't make it to Mass today; He sees what I have to deal with right now.
  • And for some, they don't have a way to get to Mass. People, distance, transportation, and others can form barriers to getting to Mass.

While it would be great if someone else solved these problems for us, we "oughta" be proactive and start finding our own solution. You know you "oughta wanna" go to Mass; find a way to turn that into a "wanna" instead.

If you see Mass as punishment, think about why it feels that way.

  • If the music or presentation bothers you, find another church that you prefer. Its worth driving a little further for a Mass you want to be at. As Peter Kreeft often says, God is a lover and stoops to conquer. If you need a different environment to feel good about being at Mass, stop feeling guilty and go find it.
  • If the homilies bore you to tears, print out a homily and bring it with you, or pray the rosary quietly during the homily - put your time to good use while you're ignoring padre - and listen to a different online homily later. (The point is to learn about Scripture, not listen to a priests, in this case; you could read a homily from a layman too, like Scott Hahn.)

If something else feels more rewarding than going to Mass or you don't think it matters, perhaps you need to learn more. Build an appreciation of what it is you're attending; find the reward rather than wait for it to be handed to you.

And finally, don't allow barriers to keep you from God. God is the great barrier-breaker. If you cannot physically attend Mass, have a priest or Eucharistic minister from a local parish visit you. Listen to Mass or watch Mass online. If you absolutely, utterly cannot go to Mass - if you have the desire but there is no earthly way, then trust in God's love. Pray at the time of Mass, in communion with all those who are physically there.

Reference: Mager, R. F., & Pipe, P. (1976). You really oughta wanna or how not to motivate people. Nursing, 6(8), 65-69.

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