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.