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Strong And Weak Wills

Many persons will admit that their memory or imagination or power of
perception is not good, but few will confess to a weak will. Strength of
will is everywhere lauded as a mark of worth and character. How can we
tell whether our will is strong or weak?

NOT A WILL, BUT WILLS.--First of all we need to remember that, just as
we do not have a memory, but a system of memories, so we do not possess
a will, but many different wills. By this I mean that the will must be
called upon and tested at every point of contact in experience before we
have fully measured its strength. Our will may have served us reasonably
well so far, but we may not yet have met any great number of hard tests
because our experience and temptations have been limited.

Nor must we forget to take into account both the negative and the
positive functions of the will. Many there are who think of the will
chiefly in its negative use, as a kind of a check or barrier to save us
from doing certain things. That this is an important function cannot
be denied. But the positive is the higher function. There are many men
and women who are able to resist evil, but able to do little good. They
are good enough, but not good for much. They lack the power of effort
and self-compulsion to hold them up to the high standards and stern
endeavor necessary to save them from inferiority or mediocrity. It is
almost certain that for most who read these words the greatest test of
their will power will be in the positive instead of the negative

volition exercised in making a decision cannot be measured by objective
results. The fact that you follow the pathway of duty, while I falter
and finally drift into the byways of pleasure, is not certain evidence
that you have put forth the greater power of will. In the first place,
the allurements which led me astray may have had no charms for you.
Furthermore, you may have so formed the habit of pursuing the pathway of
duty when the two paths opened before you, that your well-trained feet
unerringly led you into the narrow way without a struggle. Of course you
are on safer ground than I, and on ground that we should all seek to
attain. But, nevertheless, I, although I fell when I should have stood,
may have been fighting a battle and manifesting a power of resistance of
which you, under similar temptation, would have been incapable. The only
point from which a conflict of motives can be safely judged is that of
the soul which is engaged in the struggle.

Next: Volitional Types

Previous: The Extent Of Voluntary Control Over Our Acts

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