Each person's journey is unique and there is no simple mechanism which can be prescribed for helping people bring change. Nevertheless IofC offers some tools which can help in the process.
1. Take a close look at yourself
Doing an 'inventory' of our lives can be surprisingly helpful at revealing parts of our nature that we may not have been aware of. Take as guides, the universal values of absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.
Honesty - not deceiving others or ourselves.
Purity - freedom from being controlled by our desires or our fears and insecurities.
Unselfishness - a commitment to fairness and justice and a willingness to share.
Love - a quality of the heart which lies at the root of all the core values. A readiness to let go of hatred and jealousy. A commitment to forgiveness.
Why absolute? Because our nature is to always compare ourselves with other people in ways which just reinforce the beliefs we already have about ourselves. So, for example, we might say 'I am more honest than most people' or 'I am very selfish compared to my mother'. The point about these absolute values is that everyone falls short. They are like the North Star – nobody will ever reach it, but it can guide us on our way.
Take enough time to do this inventory – about an hour might be a good starting point, working alone in silence. And take something to write down the insights and revelations you gain. Look at each value in turn: Am I absolutely honest? When was the last time I deceived someone? Do I always pay what I should for the services I use? Do I always do the things I say I will do? Do I say what I really believe? How trustworthy am I?
Nobody need see what you write, so it is a question of how honest you can be with yourself. Don't forget to include the positives as well. You can celebrate the times when you have been honest, pure, unselfish or loving.
2. Act on what you find
At the end of this process, you should have some fresh insights into your own nature. Perhaps you are hearing your conscience more clearly than before. It is important now to act on what you find. Maybe it is time to return that book you 'borrowed' years ago, time to pay back any money you owe. Perhaps there are people you have hurt who you need to apologize to. Maybe you have deceived people and need, now, to tell them the truth.
Are there people you need to forgive? Forgiveness is a process that can take time, but a willingness to go down this path is an important first step. Being honest about your own mistakes can help, as can stepping into another's shoes and trying to see things from their perspective while carrying their stresses and burdens. Often the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Talking things over and praying with a trusted friend can help.
3. Take regular times in silence
Silence has long been recognized as a powerful tool for change. In silence we can access the deep inner wisdom, the voice of conscience, what mystics have recognized as the voice of the divine. Listening to this voice can provide the inspiration and inner strength to be a change-maker.
The practise which Frank Buchman taught was to start each day with a time of quiet inner searching, writing down each thought which came in order to free one's attention for the next thought.
In silence we also encounter the voice of the ego, and it is important to learn to distinguish ego from the inner voice of love. There are few more dangerous self-deceptions than an ego which believes it is speaks divine truth. Constantly referring back to the values of absolute honest, purity, unselfishness and love can help distinguish the two. Sharing the thoughts we write down with trusted friends can also help.
It is important to act on what is revealed through silence. A voice which is repeatedly ignored eventually becomes silent. This is certainly true of the inner voice, the voice of conscience.
4. Enlist others
Get creative. Who are the key players in the issue you want to address? Who would be your 'dream team'? Approaching people with your passion for change, humbly sharing what you have learned and where you have had to change can be very winning. Be prepared for the unexpected! In silence you may get thoughts to approach some unlikely people. Sometimes, the least obvious thoughts turn out to be the hinge on which big doors swing.
5. Create hope for the world
As you begin to see change happening, share the story and help inspire others. Too many people remain passive because they lack hope that things can change, or don't believe that they can make a difference. By telling the story of what has happened to you others may be motivated to start the process of change themselves, or they may want to offer you their support. Email us if you have a story you want to share.