As I progress through Fr Richards book, he talks about the idea of control. Our want for control is one of the strongest drives we possess. Want for control shows itself in the Garden where Satan tempts Adam and Eve with the idea that eating from the tree will give them control to decide their destiny and morality. If we look at our society and our world, we can see what our want for control leads to: there is no crime, no war, no sin that does not flow from the the want to establish control over others and take for ourselves what is theirs. The 7 deadly sins, born of the power train of control (pride) all are either direct or indirect attacks on others in which we wish to control , posses, and hoard and either prevent or strip away what another has. For all the over reaching for control (and the frustration that comes from finding out just how little we control), which we are told will make us happy, there is an complete lack or want for the one type of control that is not only good and virtuous, but in fact does make us happier and more content: self-control.
I think that the grand illusion is this: that we have the ability to control another person. The best that we can do is intimidate, suppress, or so degrade that the person simple does not fight back. The control of others is a game of manipulation which requires a foundation of condescension. In my pride, I have to believe that what I want and need is superior to the needs of others. Control of others does not seek to instruct or illuminate and leave the option to them to choose; it beats the other into submission or at least silence. The reader will note that in describing control of others that there is no mention of virtue or openness to charity. This is because control of others is devoid of such things. The best that we can do is purpose truth and try to influence the right choice, not because it benefits me, but because it benefits another.
The place where we all can control is what flows from our hearts, minds, souls, mouths, and acts. It is here that we need to exhibit control for the sake of being better people and better Catholics. It is the lack of self control in our own lives that will often drive us to seek control in others. I would presume this to be so because it is easier to try to control another (although fruitless) than it is to control ourselves. Then, how do we control ourselves? It starts with humility.
Humility receives such a bad wrap in our country. It is wrongly believed that humility is self-deprecation. It is not. Humility is honesty about who we are. who God is, and who we are before God. Humility allows me to look into myself and see both my strengths and weaknesses. Humility allows me to see that I did create myself, breathe life into my body, give myself the talents, gifts, and charisms I have (although I do have the task to develop them to the purpose for which they were given). Humility allows me to see that these all were given to me by God with an intent in mind. It reminds me that God gives me the grace to develop these gifts so as to build up others. It reminds where I have failed in such things and am in need in forgiveness before I can progress any further. Sometimes setting things right will be easy, but more often than not it will be very hard.
To give an example: for 20 years I ate much and exercised little. In that time, I put on 145 pounds (going from 165 to 310). I knew that this was a problem but allowed sloth and gluttony to be my way of life anyway. Now to reign in that wages of sin I am permanently changing my attitude towards diet and exercise. It meant I had to radically change my diet. It means that despite the fact that I despise my elliptical and bowflex, I have to use them for more than collecting dust. It will take a lot of effort and self-control. God gives me the grace to do so...I have to use it. I was happy yesterday when I stepped on the scale and now see my weight under 300...it took self-control and effort. If I am to progress further, it will mean much more of the same. This is just one example and I am sure each of us could give a place where we have let self-control fall by the wayside.
Fr Richards make a great point in saying that forward progress starts with humility and confession. It is hard to move forward when we are carrying the weight of the past. God wants to heal our ill advised desire to control everything but ourselves. He wants to take that meddlesome burden from us. He wants to replace it with much lighter yoke of love and humility in its place. We, each one of us, must decide whether we will allow Him to do so or not. WE can either keeping trying for the grand illusion or want what it true and bears positive fruit.