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The Education And Development Of Man's Will

We must now examine the question of the training and development of man's will. The moral character and moral value of man's personality depends most of all on the direction and strength of the will. Of course, everyone understands that for a Christian it is necessary to have: first, a strong and decisive will, and second, a will which is firmly directed toward the good of the neighbor, toward the side of good and not evil.

How is one to develop a strong will? The answer is simple - above all through the exercise of the will. To do this, as with a bodily exercise, it is necessary to begin slowly, little by little. Having begun to exercise one's will in anything (e.g., in a constant struggle with one's sinful habits or whims) this work on oneself must never cease. A Christian who wishes to strengthen his will, his character, must from the very beginning avoid all dissipation, disorder and inconsistency of behavior, otherwise, he will be a characterless person, not presenting himself as anything definite. Neither other people nor even the person himself can rely on such an individual. In the Holy Scripture such a person is called a reed shaking in the wind.

Discipline is necessary for everyone of us. It has such vital significance that without it, a correct, normal order and success in work is impossible. In the life of each individual it is of primary importance, for inner self-discipline takes the place of external school or military discipline here. Man must place himself in definite frame-works, having created definite conditions and an order of life - and not depart from this.

Let us note this, too: man's habits have a large significance in the matter of strengthening the will. We have already seen that bad, sinful habits are a great obstacle for a Christian, moral life. On the other hand, good habits are a valuable acquisition for the soul and, therefore, man must teach himself much good so that what is good becomes his own - habitual. This is especially important in early years, when man's character is still forming. It is not in vain that we say that the second half of man's earthly life is formed from habits acquired in the first half of this life.

Probably no one would argue against the fact that man needs a strong will. In life we meet people with various degrees of strength of will. It often happens that a person who is very gifted, talented, with a strong mind and a profound good heart, turns out to be weak-willed and cannot carry out his plans in life, no matter how good and valuable they might be. On the contrary, it happens that a less talented and gifted person, but one with a greater strength of will, stronger in character, succeeds in life.

A more important quality of the human will however, is its correct direction to the side of good and not evil. If a good but weak-willed person can turn out to be of little use to society, then a person with a strong, but evil, destructive will is dangerous; and the stronger his evil will, the more dangerous he is. From this, it is clear how extremely important are those principles, those basic foundations and rules by which man's will is guided. An unprincipled man is a moral nonentity, having no moral foundations, and dangerous for those around him.

From what source can man's will draw for itself these principles in order to act according to them? For an unbelieving person, an answer to this is extremely difficult and essentially impossible. Are they to be drawn from science? But science, in the first place, is interested primarily in questions of knowledge and not morals, and secondly, it does not contain anything solid and constant in principles, since it ceaselessly widens, deepens and changes much. From philosophy? But philosophy itself teaches that its "truths" are relative, and not unconditional or authentic. From practical life? Even less. This life itself is in need of positive principles which can purge it of unruly, unprincipled conditions.

Though the answer to the present question is so difficult for unbelievers, for a believing Christian the answer is simple and clear. The source of good principles is God's will. It is revealed to us in the Savior's teaching, in His Holy Gospel. It alone has an unconditionally steadfast authority in this area; and only it has taught us self-sacrifice and Christian freedom, Christian equality and brotherhood (an understanding stolen from it by those not of the faith). The Lord Himself said of true Christians, "not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven" (Mt.7:21).

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