In the 1965 at the University of Pennsylvania, Martin Seligman studied optimism and pessimism in an experiment tilted Learned Helplessness. In his experiments dogs would hear a tone and then be given a mild, brief shock. Each dog was then placed in a box with two compartments separated by a low wall. When the tone sounded, the dog was supposed to expect a shock and escape by jumping into the other compartment. Control dogs that had not been shocked would easily move from one compartment to the other. However, Seligman found that the dogs previously shocked, upon hearing the tone, would just lie down and whimper. He hypothesized that they had learned to be helpless. They never learned that they could easily avoid the shock by simply moving to the other side.
The application of Seligman’s research: We don't just respond to actual circumstances around us; rather, our EXPECTATIONS largely determine how we respond. Be careful of what you expect. You are likely to end up right there!
Don’t worry, I will not ask you if you are a dog. I all ready ask if you were a turkey buzzard, an elephant and a variety of other animals. But there is a fair amount of dog like whining going on in our church. Without going into a bunch of negative examples there is an amount of complaining in casual conversation about the state of affairs in our local and global church. But the devil resides in whining. Re-read the second paragraph. Really, go re-read it.
Are we right where we are supposed to be? John Maxwell has said “If you continue do what you have always done, you will continue to get what you got.” That stings a little doesn’t it? It is high time to put our complaints on the shelf, gather a few people together and raise our expectations. While there are valid complaints that need addressed, belaboring these issues does not make us more holy. Trusting God to see us through difficulty and rejoicing with him when his will is done makes us holy. Helping those who cannot help themselves (including whiners) makes us holy. Each parish has enough talented people to overcome all obstacles. We may have to get creative, we may have work real hard, we may have to wait for the results but we absolutely have it in us. Jesus tells us over and over if we trust God and ask for his Wisdom, his Grace, his Will, will be done.
"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."(George Bernard Shaw) While an entirely secular notion, it does challenge us to ask our Father for the insight to look beyond ourselves, to create the life he wants us to have. A life lead by him out of helplessness, to glory and fulfillment.