Definition of WILLINGNESS [ from Merriam Webster]
Cheerful readiness to do something [ plus ditto to feel or be something]
Thinking about the significance of “willingness” , it comes to my mind that if we are asked to do something pleasurable we will not need urging.We will easily be willing unless we are masochists are have pressing needs that cannot wait.
So what is the significance of “willingness” when it relates to something unpleasant or painful we must do?
I can imagine one scene where I ask someone to do a small task for me and though they are busy they are “more than willing” knowing my circumstances.But I ask a different person and though they agree there is a grudging quality about their doing what I ask.
Tn the first case we all feel joy when we know someone will go out of their way to help us and in the second we feel uneasy about asking that person and neither side gains much from the transaction.
Now turn inwards and imagine that you wake up feeling in poor spirits and moreover you do not like this.That is, you are unwilling to feel the way you do.
In my experience being unwilling in that way makes the spirits worse. We have secondary anger or depression about our state which can only make it worse.
Now think of the term “acceptance”.We can easily imagine that if we can accept a situation we can deal with it better.So a wife who finds her husband’s hobby is studying maths in the evening is going to have a problem if she believed they would spend every evening chatting together.
The husband too has a problem that he may not have foreseen when he was madly in love.He has to work out how much time he needs alone with his abstractions or whether it is an excuse not to engage with his wife.
The wife who finds her husband genuinely needs to study for long hours or he is unhappy will have to consider whether she can accept this as a way of life or whether she should seek a better partner because nowadays women want to have their needs met too,
If she accepts it and adapts then she may be happy.A problem arises if she keeps up a war with her husband, criticizing and blaming him for his needs.I might say she can’t force him to talk to her as what value does it have when it is not spontaneous?
If people have good will towards each other then they can find a way of living and respecting the other.
If we have good will towards ourselves then we can accept and live with parts of ourself we do not like or parts which cause us suffering yet which cannot be changed and must be lived with.
If we don’t have good will towards ourselves then life is much harder as we attack ourselves with criticism and deprivation of love.
I think willingness or good will is crucially important in human life though no doubt I frequently forget it! Ill will directed anywhere outside or inside harms both parties or splits the self and causes deeper problems.
Of course, it is hard to be willing to suffer painful emotions but what choice do we have? Only to find the best way or at least
“to be willing to be willing”
as I describe it to myself.
Is willingness a virtue or a decision? Or an impossibility for some of us?