Do you need help in overcoming unhappiness and frustration? In this article, the Professor of Psychology in Ambassador College helps you to better understand these human characteristics — and what to do about them.
DO YOU have difficulty in dealing with other people? Do others oppress you? Do you wish that people understood you better? Possibly it is because of your own human nature. It is time you understood what it is and what to do about it! Human nature is merely the natural, or normal, pattern of behavior of human beings. It is a thing we are born with. God gave it to us just as He gave other created beings the nature which we find in them. But, unlike the animals and others of God's creation, God did not intend us to keep that nature!
Understanding Human Nature
In seeking his own happiness, peace and comfort, man thinks on what is good for self. From morning to night he continually pampers him-SELF — what he likes, what he wants, what pleases him, what's best for him — little caring about what it will do to the other fellow. While thoughts of self do portray indifference toward the desires and welfare of others, they are not indifferent to things we hope to receive from others. You and I are guilty of such thoughts. We are guilty of being solicitous of attentions and gifts from others, while being only mildly interested in their good fortune. We know this to be true if we will only admit it. Why don't we repent of it and do something about it? We are very concerned about what people think of us, how we look, what impressions we are making, what social group we can belong to — instead of being concerned with HOW WE CAN HELP OTHERS. Even when we do work to help others there is usually a hidden, selfish motive behind it. We either expect something in return or else we desire to be looked upon by others as benevolent, self-sacrificing, saintly, angels of mercy. This is natural behavior for us. It is only being human. Yes, that is just what it is! NATURAL HUMAN NATURE from which we need to turn away and seek GOD'S NATURE instead! Wants and lusts also play a big role in our everyday human lives. We want a new car, a beautiful home or a rose covered cottage, a sympathetic mate, an exciting experience. We want to go to movies, on long trips — ANY PLACE, just so we can be on the go. We want diamonds, jewels, fur coats. We want new shoes and cute new hats. Men especially lust for sexual gratification, either respectable or illicit. Women want to be held closely — romantically, and to be kissed tenderly and passionately. Often, both men and women look on illicit sex as being more thrilling, more adventuresome, more desirable than the proper use God intended. We want ALL of our senses gratified. We like fine, delicate foods and spices. We like rich, delicious, refreshing drinks. We seek exotic perfumes. We want our ears gratified with beautiful music or seductive speech. To add to his pathetic condition, the average person is not interested in facing the task of overcoming and obeying God. He would rather go through life in his OWN human, carnal frame of mind instead of gaining experience in spiritual ways of love and joy. Even so, he does not completely escape the laws of God which regulate such things. Frustrations, heartaches, feelings of guilt torment him — reminding him that something is wrong with his way; something is wrong with HIM.
Lessons to Learn
In the beginning, God set before man good and evil, blessing and cursing, life and death. He told man to CHOOSE the good (Deut. 30:19). But man, following the way that seemed right to him (Prov. 14:12), chose evil and death. God, in His infinite mercy, did not decide to destroy man the first time he chose wrongly. He does not even let man destroy himself immediately. He gave man ways of insulating himself, to a degree, from the pain of despair which resulted from his wrong way. Yet, these pain relievers of men are only temporary. They do not remove the cause, but only allow him to go on absorbing more and more punishment while he heaps more woe upon himself. You are undoubtedly familiar with the physical pain relievers which you can purchase at the drug counters. They give temporary relief, but ignore — if not actually increase — the overall damage to the body. The pain they remove is only the symptom of a greater disease, deficiency, or malady which continues eating away the very life of the sufferer. If something more is not done than just to remove the pain, death will result. The same is true of mental disease! Most of us are not aware of the mental reactions we go through to relieve the stress and pain of unpleasant thoughts and problems while allowing the problem to remain unsolved and the situation uncorrected. To relieve these stresses brought on by selfishness, man develops an extensive repertoire of defenses. These "face-saving," eye-hiding traits, used to defend the self, are just another part of our human nature, and may be brought into play wherever confidence in SELF is threatened. These traits can be divided into three main types: (1) Aggression in order to overcome the person or thing which would dare humiliate the self. (2) Flight or withdrawal to escape unpleasantness. (3) Compromise by changing to a more noble appearing behavior but which still ignores the law of God. The aggressive trait of character, which is in every one of us, causes us to want to fight back with all our might, to discredit the one who hurt us any way we can, to cause him to lose face in the sight of all who "count"; to even attack him physically and verbally if possible: or if the oppressor is an object or animal, to destroy it in revenge. If we cannot conveniently vent our wrath on him, we scowl, snarl and snap at anyone who gets in our way in order to repay SOMEONE for the hurt we have received. This is called "scape-goating." When God's Kingdom is set up, scape-goating will NOT be tolerated — nor will other aggressive reactions by which one vents his retaliatory wrath on others. Those who are allowed to enter that Kingdom will have long since overcome such selfishness, and will have developed an entirely different character.
The WAY to Happiness
The one way to relieve the stress and strain of such situations here and now is through the fundamental law of God. It is LOVE toward God and LOVE toward neighbor. Such a law necessarily limits self love and dissolves SELF protection. We must learn not to cultivate ego, not to place ourselves on a lofty pedestal in our own minds and struggle to cause friends and associates to recognize our lofty esteem. If we are using this lifetime as God intended, we must have a wiser realization that we, as well as others, have faults and temptations to overcome. By hard work in overcoming our own selves, we have an occasion to rejoice. By helping others to overcome their natures, both have an occasion to rejoice. But, just bogging down and attempting to justify human nature is wasting valuable time and may result in the second DEATH.
Thus far, we have dealt only with the first of the three types of reactions, aggressive retaliation. Some people are too timid or too weak even to consider aggressive retaliation, perhaps through early training or perhaps through having been beaten down until no fight is left in them. These people will usually withdraw from the frustrating obstacle or situation. Such a person may withdraw physically to a less menacing surrounding — to a quiet, peaceful place. Sometimes he withdraws mentally — imagines himself being revenged. This is another psychological defense which insulates and protects the individual from the sting of threats to the self. When a person seeks to escape mentally an unpleasant reality, he may retreat into a fantasy world of make-believe. This temporary escape from the frustrations of reality is considered perfectly normal in the human carnal reaction. Whereas in real life he may be a failure, in his day-dreams he becomes a conquering hero or a very successful business man. Another disturbed person may take on the role of a suffering hero, who is perfectly right in all that he does, but humanity looks upon him as being erratic and falsely accuses him. All through his dream he glories in feeling sorry for himself and for not having anything to blame himself for. Another type of reaction, common among girls, is the beauty queen type. In this case the girl, often bored because of lack of thrills and perhaps a lack of social acceptance, goes off in a whirl of popularity and prolongs its gorgeous splendors as long as her imagination can endure. Flights into fantasy are a temporary relief from frustration and are indulged in by nearly everyone. Daydreaming becomes abnormal and dangerous when it is too frequent and too absorbing. In this instance, the individual allows the daydream to suffice instead of constructive action to make his life what it ought to be.
The Danger and Futility of Daydreaming
Daydreaming is a wrong use of the imaginative powers that God gave His potential sons. When used rightly, this faculty of mind is one of man's greatest assets. With it, he is able to foresee what might happen in a given circumstance. Through "living out" a situation in advance, he may well discover certain preparations and materials that he needs to provide. It is perhaps the most important factor in man's ability to create new and different things. By it, he is able to vision what a thing, not yet in existence, should look like before he sets about to fashion it. This is the right use of our ability to imagine and is a valuable tool to anyone who uses it correctly. The wrong use is to daydream or to rely on someone else to do our planning and visioning for us. In our modern society, we can even have our daydreams planned out and tailor-made for us. Tailor-made daydreams are made available to everyone in the form of movies, novels, plays, operas, television and radio programs. Most people actually "live" the roll of the actors in their imagination. They thrill to experience which they "live out" with the hero or heroine vicariously. The adolescent girl thrills as she imagines that the handsome actor kisses her, and the lustful male often enjoys the heart throbs that go along with vicariously holding the bewitching, beautiful heroine. Or, he may thrill to the bucking of a bronc, to killing innumerable Indians, or streaking high above the clouds in a jet aircraft, hot in pursuit of the enemy who doesn't dare turn around and meet him in mortal combat. To many individuals, this vicarious daydreaming or identifying of themselves with someone more exciting, becomes an end in itself. They never try to rise above their humdrum daily existence — relying on daydreams and other forms of escapism to supply the adventure and sense of accomplishment which a full and abundant life should bring of itself.
Repression and Escapism
Another very common withdrawing reaction is that which has been termed "repression." When a person wants to exclude undesirable thoughts or feelings, shame or guilt, he often represses those thoughts and memories from his consciousness. Thus, he simply closes his mind to them. Everyone at times witnesses the act of repression in himself. We often "remember too late" to perform some unpleasant duty, whereas we very seldom forget to perform the duty to which we look forward with anticipation. Repression is very similar to forgetting, but it is forgetting for convenience sake. The last main type of SELF-defense reaction is compromised behavior. Sometimes ego-involved stress cannot be reduced to a comfortable degree by either fighting back or withdrawing. The usual "human" way out in such a case is to make some compromise. This usually involves lowering self-esteem or ambition, but not losing it altogether. In the case of some carnal person seeking to satisfy a lust, he may find direct satisfaction impossible either because the goal is physically inaccessible or because he would feel guilty if he did the things necessary to accomplish it. Under these circumstances, he might substitute another goal, one which still satisfies the lust to a degree but which is more readily obtainable or honorable. For instance, an adolescent boy, frustrated by sexual desires, may adorn his walls with "pin-up" girls. Rationalization is another device of human nature that we are all prone to use if we are still crying to protect the self. We do a thing either through vanity or lust, but we rationalize that we are doing it as a kindness to some other person who might also profit. "Alibi Ike" is another good example of one who rationalizes. This person cannot admit any guilt but excuses himself by saying, "I meant to do it but I just didn't have time," or, "I would have performed the job but my assistants were lazy," or, "I failed because my teacher didn't like me." Rationalization is not an attempt to deceive others, it is an attempt to assure the self that it is still worthy, noble, and good. There are many more of these traits and many, many more examples, but space does not permit more in this article.
OVERCOME Your Human Nature
These are all human, carnal traits. They are traits which we were ALL born with! They are devices which we can use to hide our eyes from the truth of God and to continue in fool-hardy pursuits. These are traits which — in the end — we must lay aside and face the fact that our old human, carnal nature is not good. We must realize that it is through this nature that Satan tempts us (James 1:14). Those who will not do this must wrestle with frustration and stress which their sins bring on them. "Kidding oneself" may relieve some of the pain temporarily, but the continuance of sin keeps adding to the reservoir of unavoidable stress. How about you? Are you fighting your human nature? Are you fighting a good fight as Paul said he did, or are you just drifting along doing what comes naturally? In reading this article, have you discovered some of the human nature which still affects YOUR life and happiness? If so, I hope you have decided to do something about it! You can remove the blight by turning to God for mercy and guidance to assist you in overcoming. If, however, you did not find anything which applies to you, but many things which apply to others, then you should re-read this with an open and inquiring mind to see if you were not employing some SELF-defensive trait which did not let you come to the reality of your true condition. We are ALL guilty of one or more of them. No one has overcome ALL of his human nature except Christ. It is not a shame to have it. But it IS a shame to keep it! Because God has said that He is more willing to give us His Holy Spirit than we are to give our hungry children bread (Luke 11:13). When we see our high calling, we should give more earnest heed lest we neglect so great salvation.
You NEED the Help of God's Spirit
God has promised to beget you by His Holy Spirit when you repent and are baptized. This means that you must come to loathe that human nature within yourself; that you must hunger and thirst for the pure, holy character of God, crying out to God earnestly for help; that you must be in submission always, throwing yourself upon His mercy and relying on Him to forgive you for your past sins. With begettal through God's Holy Spirit, you are filled with His self-LESS love, wisdom, patience, understanding and faith. Through His power, which He has placed in His Son Jesus, He will begin to capably mold you into what He has purposed for you. He will mold of you what you cannot make of yourself. He will give you eternal life and make you a member of His glorious Spirit-born family! You should also be concerned for others, and labor for their sakes in earnest prayer and diligent effort to take the Gospel to the world, so that all who will might repent and turn to their Creator and their Savior who came to give us life more abundantly (John 10:10). Through God's Spirit — His very nature placed with in you — you can OVERCOME human nature and find the supreme happiness and inward peace that your Creator intended!