Which way are your intentions leading you, and why?
Why Do You Do What You Do?
By Bryan Thatcher, MD (Apr 19, 2010)
I want to share with you some thoughts on having purity of intention. I struggle with this a lot, and I frequently have to ask myself, "Why are you doing what you are doing?"
For many of us, our intentions may be good, but underneath lies our true intention and purpose of action. It is like the young man who is in the mall and walks over to the shoe store because he sees a pretty girl. He tells his mother that he wants to try on the new Nikes, but in actuality he wants to get a closer look at the young lady. It seems that the purity of intention that we strive for is not yet ours.
I believe that there is definitely a relationship between doing God's will and purity of intention. Doing His will requires a daily dying to self so that "He may increase and I may increase." If we do things out of love, and since God is love, we know that God is with us. And when God is with us, we are full of love and peace, the peace that only He can give.
I want to give you a practical example of purity of intention and being merciful. As I travel and speak across the country, so often I hear of angry family members who cared for their elderly parents while the other siblings did almost nothing. When the other siblings did a small deed, they made sure that everyone else in the family knew about it! I wonder if that isn't the way that they handle their guilt, making sure that others know about their good deeds, while at the same time trying to convince themselves that they were doing their share.
And of course, usually it is that same family member that is first in line to receive something like an inheritance. Meanwhile, anger and resentment builds up in the caregiver, and after a while they lose focus as to why they are caring for their parents in the first place. We must continually ask ourselves, "Why am I doing what I am doing?" At times like these, amidst all the confusion in the world, I find comfort in the words of Scripture:
When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then He will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He will place the sheep at His right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, "Come, O Blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me ..." (Mt 25:34-36).
God is love, and we must let love be our guiding light. Since God is love, if we do things out of love, we have God leading and guiding us. Thomas Merton wrote, "I don't know if I am doing Your will, Lord, but the fact that I think I am ought to be pleasing to You."
And when we get frustrated and angry that others are not doing their share, let us ask for the grace to get through the trial. Ask yourself, "Why am I going and visiting my parents? Why am I bathing them? Why am I taking them to their doctor's appointments? Is it out of love, or is it out of obligation?"
Are you afraid of the feelings of guilt you'll feel if you don't do your daily duty? Certainly every situation is different, but all of us should do our best and do everything out of love. For we know that God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him.
So, amidst the confusion from the world and our own human struggles, I would ask that you listen and reflect on the words of St. Faustina. She wrote, "I will do everything in my power, but I beg You to be always with me and to give me strength to do Your holy will; for You can do everything, while I can do nothing of myself" (Diary of St. Faustina, 154).
Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy.