The Harder I Try To Be Good, The Worse I Get

Ponder this old saying: “When the wind subsides, the leaves still fall”.

I would bet a zillion bucks, if I had it, that everyone who reads that title knows what I am talking about. It is as sure as eggs is eggs (or x=x if you prefer). St Paul made a similar point with searing honesty in Romans 7:15.

The world is full of desires, ways and means to improve one’s self: diet plans, fasts, abstinences, self help books and groups, programs, courses, new year’s resolutions etc etc.

None of them work. Not one of them.

At best, one will gain a temporary conquest over some troubling foible, but that’s it. Then after a pause, that foible will come back stronger than ever, exactly when you are celebrating its demise.

Now the simple reason for this is that all those strategies rely on the ego fighting to defeat the ego.

Duh! One might as well fight fire with a petrol pump.

The bottom line is that one is not saved through one’s own acts. One is saved through the action of God, which is termed Grace. Once Grace has acted upon you, your own actions become Grace-filled, and then help Grace to spread further, in a positive feedback fashion. Our only role is not to impede this heavenward spread, by joining in the carnival of Godlessness going on outside. The fewer of us who sin, the quicker that Grace achieves its universal target.

Grace requires no action from us, it is an unearned given, and is sufficient in itself. When we stop trying to change the world, the world keeps changing nonetheless, and mysteriously and beautifully, but painfully, for the better. Very often, our “helpful” interventions to try and accelerate the process end up crippling it, like the man who blew on the butterfly emerging  from its coccoon to help dry its wings: The poor creature ended up deformed and flightless. Healthy growth is God’s business, and he understands the timetable better than we ever will. Patience is our portion.

If you don’t believe me, believe Our Lord instead, whose plan and Grace it is.

About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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9 Responses to The Harder I Try To Be Good, The Worse I Get

  1. Roger says:

    Self is your enemy. Fight against the desires of self.

    “..You cannot love two masters, children, you cannot have the world and Me. You must choose to follow the one that you love most. As I have said, children, you must live in the world but not be of it but in these times: you both live in the world and are of the world, which goes against everything that I have Taught. Come away from its dangers and you shall see the Truth of My Words. ..”

    Romans 7
    [5] For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death.

    Matthew 6
    [24] No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

    Luke 16
    [13] No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

    Ephesians 6
    [12] For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.

    Colossians 2
    [8] Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy, and vain deceit; according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ:

    Why do you think that the Popes spoke against Modernism? What makes this time the time of the Great Apostacy is because of the seduction of Self and Modernism. The Immaculate Conception takes Us back to Genesis and the temptation of Man. The Enlightenment thats Colossians 2 [8] .


  2. clementaustin says:

    I remember the iconographic of the two sheep one gazing upon the tabernacle and the other gazing upon the world. I can be both of these sheep although not at the same exact moment. I must become the lesser and He the greater.


  3. johnkonnor72 says:

    …If scripture is the mirror and humility is the chair then we will see ourselves as we truly are through God’s eye..the eye we see God with is the same eye God sees us with…when we understand what we are then we realize our vocation..through the sacrramental life we are God’s hands and eyes since he has none…we then actualize ourself more fully…the doors of perception are hinged upon the truths contained in the church…and so we will desire what God desires…which is a communion of love..thy kingdom come thy will be done…


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    Very nice, JK72. Same goes for BB’s post. The thing is, if we are redeemed by Grace, and not by our personal “goodness” – which I accept without ignoring the importance (albeit secondary importance) of works – how do we invite God’s grace into our lives? BB says that ” Grace requires no action from us, it is an unearned given”, which again I accept, thinking of John Newton’s hymn, Amazing Grace; but is there anything we can actually do to accelerate the process of becoming “full of Grace” as our Blessed Mother was? Yes, we can pray. That is the single most important thing a Christian can do


  5. kathleen says:

    Yes johnkonnor, I think you have hit the nail on the head.

    IOW, it is not that “The Harder I Try To Be Good, The Worse I Get“, as much as how we grow in the realisation of Sin. As one strives to ‘pick up one’s Cross’ to follow Christ as closely as possible, even venial sins can wound and trouble us, for we are more aware of the horror of sin. We see the tragic consequences of sin, and how it separates us from God’s Goodness and Love.

    And I’m glad you mention God’s Grace JH, because that’s what I think this is all about.

    We should be careful about over-scrupulosity and never fall into despair when we see our failure to avoid sin…. This would be a great triumph for the Devil! Knowing ourselves as weak and frail, constantly ‘tripping’ up over the ‘rocks’ along the way, should make it clear to us how utterly dependent we are on God’s Unlimited Mercy. We are unable to do anything at all by ourselves, and even our good works, made in answer to our prayers of supplication for God’s help, are a gift, and the result of His Grace working in our lives, i.e. not through our own merits.


  6. johnhenrycn says:

    Kathleen, at the risk of becoming a fully paid up member of the Mutual Admiration Society (btw: where is that song ‘M.A.S.’ from – a film from the ’60s starring Michael Caine, I think), I must say I like this:
    “As one strives to “pick up one’s Cross” to follow Christ as closely as possible, even venial sins can wound and trouble us, for we are more aware of the horror of sin.”


  7. johnhenrycn says:

    I repeat:
    Prayer: “…the single most important thing a Christian can do.”
    We often talk on this blog of other faith groups – Protestant and otherwise – sometimes not very kindly. As Catholics, we’ve got nothing to apologize for when we talk of our Faith. It is our solemn duty to do so. Still, while being militant, we should remember that God loves Protestants (and Muslims, Hindus, etc.) every bit as much as He loves us. Remembering that, we should avoid claiming some sort of superiority and accept that since we are no more loved by or familiar with God than anyone else, all we can boast about is that we have the gift of True Faith, not proximity to God.
    “…to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.”
    …which means, I suggest, while professing our faith, we must turn away from that fatuous insularity which says we know what God has in store for us.
    I’m reminded of these things because last Thursday a very old Protestant woman came into the office to sign a codicil to her will so as to leave $5,000 “for the maintenance and refurbishment of the organ in said church”. Not a Catholic church, to be sure. Is her bequest any less special to God than the one that another (Catholic) client recently made of $100,000 “for the general purposes of said Parish”?

    Is this on topic? 😉


  8. kathleen says:

    Nice reminder JH. Yup, right on topic IMO! 😉
    You are absolutely right that we should not just presume that we have a predilection in God’s favour, simply because we have been highly blessed in being called to be members of His One True Church. In fact it is this great and unmerited Grace that opens up to us a greater knowledge of the fullness of Truth, and thus we are endowed with all the necessary means for Salvation. Therefore our responsibility and duty to carry out our mission to love as Christ loves, and spread the Faith among the uncatechised*, is all the more imperative. And we shall be judged accordingly!

    Our Lord Jesus Christ is our model; He shows us time and again in the Gospel that we should not shut the doors of Salvation or Charity to anyone.

    P.S. The *”uncatechised” may even include some of our own Catholic family!!


  9. Toad says:

    ” The *”uncatechised” may even include some of our own Catholic family!!”

    …But, thank God, that doesn’t include us, does it!

    Contrariwise. Toad finds the harder he tries to be bad, the better he gets.
    (Nah, Just kidding. Just made that up!)

    …Because he vividly remembers being told that non-Catholics, no matter how ‘good’ they were – did not, and, what’s more, could not – go to to Heaven.
    So does Gertrude, if he remembers correctly.

    Mind you, that was then. And this is now.

    Not the Good Old Hell and damnation Days any more. Shame, really.


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