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What is Free Will, and How Much Do You Have?

Within Christianity, it’s typical to think of the soul as being comprised of the mind, will and emotions. I believe this concept was brought forth by Watchman Nee. (If you’ve never read The Spiritual Man, I recommend it; it will likely challenge you at the deepest level and change how you “do” Christianity.)

I’m currently researching the mind and the will for my first book; the chapter on emotions is finished. It turns out that the will is tricky to pin down, and there’s significant disagreement among researchers on the topic. Some say that we actually don’t have free will but are moved to act solely based on unconscious impulses from deep within the brain. Others argue that even if the actions are based on such impulses, we have the option of vetoing the actions at the last minute – what some call “free won’t”!

For me, both are too mechanistic and narrow in their observations and assumptions. God gives people many choices, as evidenced throughout scripture, and we get to choose which way to go. To me, that’s free will.

Except…

The real issue is, what is it in you that makes or helps you choose one thing over another? What influences are at work, and just how “free” are the choices you make?

At this point, you may be wondering, “Who cares? Why does this matter?” I believe it matters a great deal, and here’s why:

  1. If you don’t understand what’s influencing you, are your choices really free? Are you able to make the best choice in a situation, or are your choices limited by what’s going on behind the scenes in your brain?
  2. I’m not just talking about choosing to stand up or sit down, or what sweater to wear. I’m talking about daily actions like deciding whether or not to yell at someone or how to express love or whether to express it at all. If you’re only choosing from a small subset of all available options, what dimensions of life might you be missing out on?
  3. For people who are fixated or addicted, is there a point at which the fixation or addiction takes over so that no other choice is possible? If that is the case, it radically shifts our paradigm of blame and, I hope, moves us toward greater compassion.

The will resides within our soul, the part of us that Jesus died to redeem. That means it has some…issues. It has a personality, which is not representative of our true selves but is based on one of nine fixations. That means each of us has choices that are dictated by that fixation and moderated by our level of emotional health.

Which means that our free will isn’t totally free. In a real sense, we are prisoners or slaves to that narrow subset of choices that the personality offers us.

This is why I teach and live and recommend the Enneagram. It’s a tool that gives you the self-understanding you need to begin to reclaim your true self and gain more freedom in your will. This will help you make choices that are more often consistent with God’s best for you.

Remember, God wants you to live the fullness of your destiny way more than you do! I want it for you, too. I’ve created a short program to help you get started on this journey of self-knowing. It’s called Know Yourself to Know God, and you can find it here.

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