The Crucial Need for Volitional Growth
On Tuesday I identified the will, the volition, as the central component of the human personality. The mind, when correctly informed, points the will toward reality. Often the emotions motivate us to move in the opposite direction. If the will sides with the intellect, the individual is more likely to succeed. If the emotions seduce the will to follow it, negative results will occur.
As a result, in large degree of volitional strength of an individual determines success or failure in life.
The Need for Volitional Growth
The will is like a muscle. It becomes stronger when exercised. Therefore, as the volition is confronted with challenging circumstances it develops strength. This will enable the individual to resist the seduction of the emotions and choose the harder but better alternative supplied by the mind. When the time comes for a student to study for a final, and all his friends are headed for a party, if his will has been sufficiently developed he will have the strength to take the better advice of his mind and spend time preparing for the final.
Failure of American Society to Exercise the Volition
American society since the 1960s has adopted a culture that omits exercise of the will. This is evident on many fronts
- The 60s culture itself represented a tacit rejection of any exercise of the will. Its two predominant tenets are, “If it feels good, do it,” and “You have a right to do your own thing.” Combined these concepts assert that the individual can put his will in neutral and float downstream guided by his emotions. The hippies of the 60s morphed into yuppies who continue to apply these principles to their individual lives and to society, preventing volitional development.
- This culture found psychological support in the therapeutic theory of Carl Rogers, which has as its cornerstone the notion that unconditional acceptance and unconditional self-acceptance provide the keys to psychological well-being. Unconditional acceptance in essence informs children, students, and others that they need not exercise their will to be okay. Unconditional self-acceptance teaches the individual that he needs not exercise his volition to feel good about himself. Combined they remove external and internal requirements to discipline one’s will.
- Historically the child’s will was developed through discipline in the home. However, the attitude engendered by the 60s philosophy coupled with the teaching that unconditional acceptance is crucial to child development have undermined parental discipline.
- These same forces have expelled discipline from our educational institutions. This lack of discipline not only applies to classroom behavior but also to academic achievement. Some schools have removed achievement indicators such as the honor roll, and there is some movement within contemporary education to even do away with grades. Grade inflation at the college level has in effect eliminated grading by giving most people A’s and virtually everyone a passing grade. You are okay without disciplining yourself to study.
- Legalizing marijuana constitutes one of the latest means of removing the requirement to exercise self-discipline.
- Though welfare represents a valid social policy when employed as a safety net, it has become a means of eliminating the need to exercise discipline in supporting oneself. Likewise the supply of almost limitless unemployment benefits. So also with the initiatives by President Obama on wealth distribution and its latest version presented in terms of income inequality. Doctors and engineers and small business owners and people in other professions work hard, exercising great demands on their volition, in order to succeed. President Obama takes the position that those who have not exercised this same self-discipline should nonetheless share in the profits.
The list could go on of ways in which contemporary American culture has stunted volitional growth.
It is little wonder that as a nation we lack the will to control our own passions and control our own borders. I am an advocate of the Second Amendment, convinced that individuals have a right to own and bear arms. However, the ultimate American tragedy is that our culture has disarmed us volitionally, making us the laughingstock of the world because of our weakness of will.