The journey not the outcome

Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (14 March 2015)

In businesses, outcomes are important. The bottomline and profits are the ways in which leaders determine success. Other organisations like schools often also look at KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), which are criteria to judge if a person or group is performing well. In schools, such indicators could be students doing well in centralised examinations, getting good jobs or having people in the various industries give good feedback about them. Whatever these are, it’s common for most to look at results and outcomes when trying to see if something is successful or not. Very often, the journey or the process is less important. Isn’t the process of learning as important as the result? Isn’t some growth in character better than just a few marks difference in an examination?

Life is a journey, not an outcome.

During this time of Lent, we take time to reflect and consider our behaviour, actions and how these affect our relationship with God. These thoughts often become more stark and sometimes more troubling when thinking about sin. And so the same questions that I just asked can be applied here – do we look at our sins just as outcomes, as what we did or failed to do? How about the processes or attitudes that led us to to the sins? And what do we really mean when we say that we will ‘try not to sin again’?

I feel that looking just at outcomes is short-sighted. Just as organisations and schools will miss out on good people if only the outcomes (or examinations) are looked at, we also miss out on quite a bit of ourselves if we continue just to focus on the outcomes of sin and not anything else. Take an action based on anger as an example. Lashing out at someone because of anger can be sinful as we’re doing that out of a lack of love and mercy for others. Treating our neighbour as a punching bag draws us away from God. But it’s also useful to examine the root of this. What made me lash out in the first place? Sometimes, our own hurts and expectations can cause us to act in ways that we don’t quite expect and it’s thus important to examine not just the outcomes but the processes that lead us to sin.

Also, if we continue just to look at outcomes of sins, we might get easily discouraged by the recurrence of some common ones. The outcomes don’t tell the full story. A person scoring 60% for an examination might be deemed ‘Average’ but if he or she usually scores 30%, wouldn’t the much higher score be considered very good? Looking at our starting points and how we’re improving as far as our relationship with God is can encourage us along our own journeys. We can ask if we’re truly getting better, beginning to journey closer with the Lord while still trying to work on the tendencies that cause us to sin. We should be encouraged that we’re getting closer, doing a little better in our own individual ways in our journeys with the Lord.

We need to remember that things are never complete and we remain works in progress. We should take heart in that and not be discouraged even if our current state seems somewhat disastrous. After all, the ultimate victory of our Lord on the cross seemed like abject failure at first. Our blessed Mother’s following and suffering with her son to Calvary also seemed futile at best. We’re still on our journeys an there’s still hope – abject failure can be followed by dizzying success if we continue to trust and walk faithfully with our Lord. Don’t look just at the outcomes, the sins and the results. Enjoy our journeys and watch how we can still be converted, every step of the way. All it takes is that little bit of faith and some patience. Enjoy the journey.

I’ll end with a few verses from the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowful Mother stood) to show the grief and the as yet incomplete journey.

At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
mourning Him who mourned for me,
all the days that I may live

By the Cross with thee to stay,
there with thee to weep and pray,
is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!,
Listen to my fond request:
let me share thy grief divine;

Let me, to my latest breath,
in my body bear the death
of that dying Son of thine.

A musical interpretation of the Stabat Mater, by Pergolesi.


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about the brushhead

had a head like a brush (it's more like an egg now). seeks to sweep through thought and faith with that brush. tries to wax philosophical but often forgets to wax off. trying to be good brush to all, while discerning what kind of brush he's meant to be.

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