The Way is Tried

Author: John Groden

Mountain Path2

In The Brothers Karamazov, a distraught woman approaches Father Zosima for advice. She had lost her childhood faith as she grew up and witnessed suffering. Her crisis of belief prevented her from enjoying life or trusting others, and she thought that only Fr. Zosima could save her from the darkness.

The old monk simply tells her that if she loves everyone she meets, she won’t be able to not believe in God. By actively loving everyone she met each day, the woman would gradually become more sure of the reality of God. “This way is tried. This way is certain,” Zosima concludes.1

“The Way” was also the earliest name for Christianity.2 The early followers of Jesus didn’t describe themselves as believers in new theological ideas; rather, they defined themselves by following a path, a way of radical love that led to new life. Orthopraxy (right action) precedes orthodoxy (right thinking), or as Fr. Michael Himes put it, “One has to do the doctrine before one can understand the doctrine.”3

Richard Rohr summarized these ideas in his principle that “We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking.” Our Integration exercises, and to an extent the entire Heart’s Desire program, are rooted in this idea of following the Way in order to change lives. Moreover, the scientific evidence for this approach has been growing over the years. As Wharton psychologist Adam Grant explains the research, “Influence is far more powerful in the opposite direction: change people’s behaviors first, and their attitudes often follow. To turn takers into givers, it’s often necessary to convince them to start giving.”4

As we continue to explore our heart’s desires and goals for social change in this next season, our hope is that you can apply these time-tested spiritual practices in your own lives. Thank you for joining us and sharing meaningful conversations about things that matter.

Love everyone you meet. “The Way is tried. The Way is certain.”5

[1] Translations and page numbers vary, but the scene can be found in Book II, Chapter 4: A Lady of Little Faith. Dostoevsky, Fyodor, The Brothers Karamazov.

[2] See Acts 9:2.

[3] Himes, Michael J., and Donald P. McNeill, Doing the Truth in Love: Conversations about God, Relationships, and Service (Paulist Press, 1995), 20.

[4] Grant, Adam M., Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success (Phoenix / Orion Books, 2014), 247.

[5] This post was inspired by Fr. Himes’ reflection on The Brothers Karamazov passage in Himes, 55. Fr. Greg Boyle also explores this scene in The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness (Simon & Schuster, 2021), 133, Kindle.