I just talked with a friend who complained that as much as he hated his father for his violent temper and treatment of his mother, he has grown up to be him. Now he has a fear of marriage and especially of having children because he fears that he will inflict the same damage. And he is certain that he cannot change. He is convinced that he has no ability to do so. He believes that his evil nature is his fate.
But this is a universal experience. We all suffer and are twisted and hurt by life; and, most often by our closest family members and loved ones. Everyone has their personal history and stories. And most people can recite a list of how their parents failed them and how they are the root of their troubles and personality defects.
The vast majority of people reading this have identified with all that I have said so far. And this shared experience unites us with every son, daughter, mother and father throughout history. If we follow the blame trail to its ultimate source, we dig down to the very first father and mother, Adam and Eve. The conclusion is: We are all screwed up and always have been, from the beginning of time.
And we all know the frustration of not being able to change too. This is an essential part of human nature: “Oh, wretched man that I am! The very thing that I hate doing, I find that I constantly do. And the things that I know that I should be doing, I never do.”
The struggle to gain control over our body’s desires and our natural thoughts is the basis of all philosophy and religion: To be free from slavery to our body and the bondage that causes us to obey urges that war against our soul and heart’s desires. And seemingly, the majority of us also add cigarettes, booze and illegal drugs to seek a semblance of our ideal, whether good or bad.
To me, it is quite obvious that none of the above work. And like my friend, it is only reasonable, after so many years of trying, to conclude that permanently changing our intrinsic nature and personality is unachievable. – I myself have tried a variety of methods to gain control over my natural tendencies: meditation, chanting, Judaism, hedonism, existentialism, naturalism, pantheism, eastern religions and self-medication. It was hopeless.
“I do not understand myself at all, for, I really want to do what is right, but I do not do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong because my conscience makes me feel horrible. But I can’t help myself.” – This is the Bible’s definition of the human dilemma.
From cover to cover it declares: “It is impossible to gain control over our bodies and minds. It is a futile attempt. Give up trying. Nothing we do will ever work.”
Then, near the end of the Bible, the Apostle Paul asks this universal question that we have all asked ourselves: “How will I ever be set free from a life dominated by my evil and selfish tendencies?”
Here is the entire wisdom of both the Old and New Testaments, of Abraham, Moses the Prophets and Apostles, all rolled up into one: Let go and let God.
We can never save ourselves from who we are. We are unable to control and change our Self by using our Self to do it. This coincides with the definition of Insanity that we have heard: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result than every time that came before.”
Just as Jesus Christ died on the cross, we must crucify our Self too and die. This is the door to true life. It is simply done by loving God and others, instead of your Self. Admit the guilt that you feel. Own up to your bad behavior. Stop making excuses and blaming others. Quit. Slam the door on doing what your Self wants to do. Replace it with a life lived helping and loving others.
Make this your life’s motto and all will be well: “I choose to make loving God and doing his will the very most important thing in my life.” If you do, God will make you a new person. – This choice takes faith. It is like stepping out of a boat in the middle of a storm and expecting to walk on water. Yes, the Bible always associated faith with courage. That is why it says, “Yes, be strong and courageous and put your trust in God.”
The Apostle Paul concludes his reply to how to gain self-control and fulfillment in life by telling us how he achieved it:
“I have also been crucified on Jesus’ cross; nevertheless, I am still alive; yet, it is not really me anymore. It is Christ living in me. So my life now is lived by putting my faith, hope and confidence in God. I do this by believing that God loves me and proved it by dying for me.”
PS. This is a once-in-a lifetime choice. And it is also a minute-by minute choice. And the need to choose never ends. — But if you are willing to make that choice, God will always give you the strength to do it.
At your service,