Written by Dr. Ken Buckle for Maggie’s Place Alumni Moms
Given on January 8, 2012, The Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord
HOUSTON—In the previous article we began to look at the theory of change described by Drs. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente. Their first stage “Precontemplation” represents that state in which we are not at all ready to take action on some type of change. This change might involve starting a new positive behavior, or stopping an old unhealthy behavior. There may be many reasons why we are not ready, such as having no awareness of the need or no confidence that we can successfully change.
This first stage is called “Precontemplation” because we are not really giving any thought to making a change.
But something happens. The evidence of a need or problem may become overwhelming such that we can no longer deny the issue. Our lives may be falling apart. We may realize that we’ve hurt someone we love, or harmed a complete stranger. It could be that we suddenly see that we are self-sabotaging. Maybe the right person has come into the picture and found a way to make an impression on us. It could be that suddenly we have some hope that something can change. Or maybe it’s a new year and we want to make some resolutions. Perhaps in all of this, we have been blessed with grace, a grace that begins the healing process.
So what happens in the second stage? The second stage is called “Contemplation.” At this point we might begin to consider the pros and cons of continuing on the path we’ve been travelling, but we might also weigh the pros and cons of making a change. We do some thinking. We could also do some praying about it. We consult a friend or a mentor. We visit with a priest or a counselor to consider the issue. It is okay that this stage involves just thinking and not taking action. Real action will come later when we are ready. This process of thinking things over can take some time, but it is a step in the right direction. It is a step that moves us closer to change. We are getting ready.
This is a good time to pray for and seek wisdom. Wisdom is a sign of grace and it is indeed a great and mysterious gift. Wisdom allows us to see a situation more clearly, to make better judgments, and to make good decisions. Sometimes we are amazed when we are able to figure it out and we think: “where did that come from?” The Old Testament prophet Isaiah described wisdom as one of the many attributes of the coming Messiah (Isaiah 11:2-3), and so it is right for us to invite Jesus to show us the light, to share His perfect wisdom with us when we are struggling to sort things out in our lives.
During the Advent and Christmas seasons each year, my parents suspend a gold star over a nativity scene in their backyard and shine a spotlight on it at night. In today’s gospel passage (Matthew 2:1-10) we are reminded of the wise men who followed the light of the bright star, and they found the Christ child and were happy! This is what happens when we have some insight and experience wisdom: we see the light and we are thankful. It is a wonderful feeling, full of peace and great relief.
In the process of getting ready to change, the consideration of the pros and cons is not easy. We may feel confused and discouraged. We might be tempted to give up and return to the previous stage of “Precontemplation” and forget all about it. We might also rush in to taking action before making a good plan. Try to avoid these options. Stay with the process a just little longer and give it some time. While it can be helpful to have some quiet time by yourself to consider making a change, don’t forget to ask others to share their wisdom. And remember to bring Christ into the process too. Simply ask Him to be part of it with you. Tell him how you feel. He understands. We celebrate this gift at Christmas: that God sent His Son to live among us and be one of us, to be one with us. We celebrate the best change of all: salvation!
In the next article, we will look at the third stage of change: “Preparation.” This next stage takes us even closer to making a change. It is one of the most important steps.Father of all wisdom, you sent your Son to heal us and bring us reconciliation. Show us your light, and we will be saved!