“The heavens may impel but they do not compel.” ~ anonymous
Dear Columbine Family,
As we enter the month of January, our secular culture encourages us to look at our lives anew at the turn of the New Year. Interestingly, this does not line up with the time that some religions celebrate the new year. I am thinking of Judaism and Islam who both have their New Year beginning in the fall season. But no matter when we do it, we human folk seem to need a time that calls us to reflect on our lives, renew our best intentions, and set new goals.
In a conversation with a congregant yesterday, we discussed how interesting it is that this New Year invitation comes after a very busy — and often overwhelming — holiday season. And at best, many of us are lucky just to recover, let alone be more ambitious about our lives!
So, when we think about what it means to be a people of possibility, as we review the commitments we have made in our lives, and as we work to be the best version of ourselves that we can be — a spiritual distinction that might help is to look at the subtle but powerful difference between being compelled to do something and being impelled to do something.
It has been said that “the heavens may impel but they do not compel.” The latin etymology of each word can assist us in knowing the difference:
Impel means “to set in motion” or “to strike against,” like a bell. Think about it: when we strike a bell, vibration is set in motion and the inherent sound of its beauty rings out. Impel is also akin to impulse, reminding us of the pulse or heartbeat which naturally sources and mobilizes vitality in the body’s system.
Compel comes from the latin meaning to crowd, force, push or drive. In other words, “to secure or bring about by force,” “to drive a course of action.” So, when we are compelled to do something we can feel forced by duty, over-responsibility, or outside demands. It is not a surprise, that new year’s resolutions set from this perspective are rarely accomplished!
So, when we are impelled to do something we are moved not by something we feel forced to do, but by something that would bring out our natural, or innate capacities. We can ask ourselves what would naturally bring out the best in me, set-in-motion my gifts, help me to love my work more, help me to spend more enjoyable time with my family, or bring out the things that I was born to do and be?
Conversely, can we relax around the things we feel forced to do, or that we feel driven to be? You know what these are!
Taking time to identify this difference between “what I feel compelled to do” and “what I feel impelled to do,” can help each of us make choices and turn toward possibilities that are more in-line with our deepest, most true sense of ourselves. We can to encourage those opportunities that will help us to bloom to our fullest and finest.
What possibility would strike you in such a way that you would ring out like a beautiful bell for all to hear?