Are You Damaged Goods? (Article 17-18)
How we are as people and the personality we exhibit is significantly shaped by our past. Although, to a certain degree, I believe heredity factors play a part in shaping personality, I also believe our personality is largely formed by the aggregate conglomeration of memories and circumstances in our past lives, largely in our childhood growing days. More specifically, the culture, financial condition, upbringing, family experiences and degree of nurturing and other environmental factors have a significant role in shaping who we are as a person and our personality. I suspect many have taken personality tests to gain better insight to who they are as person and to better understand why he/she feels the way they do (especially as it relates to our relationship-related interactions). Although such tests may provide interesting insights to who we may be (the subsequent result of some other factor), these tests fall short in explaining why we are who we are as people. In fact, trying to understand how we become who we are has been on man’s mind for hundreds and hundreds of years. This pursuit has given rise to numerous personality development theories. Some theories give credence to psycho-physiology factors that shape our personality, while others are more environmental in orientation. The truth is that there is no one theory that adequately explains how our personalities are shaped. But what does serve as a common denominator when considering personality development is that much of who we become as people, including the development of our personality, is greatly influenced by our past experiences as children and maturing adolescents.
Are We Victims of Our Past?
Exploring our past experiences, beginning as a child, provides some important clues to how our personality is shaped, as well as understanding the development of our value system and attitudes toward other people and the world in general. This point becomes particularly important when considering how significant hurtful, painful, or traumatic situations in our past, particularly in our childhood or young adolescent years influence who we have become as a person. I’m not talking about the occasional or temporary circumstance that have made us sad. I’m talking about situations that had a profound effect on shaping who we are as a person, how we see the world and us in it. I’m talking about situations that continuously bombard us with negative thoughts that elicit angry, guilty, frustrating, fearful, or shameful feelings, leading us down paths of despair, sadness, bitterness, doubt, resentfulness, loneliness and depression. I’m talking about occurrences that emotionally imprison us and hamper us cognitively, keeping us from considering other life-based alternatives other than the ones that emotionally bind us to our past. I'm talking about circumstances or situations that have negatively impacted on our sense of self-worth and have made us insecure and reluctant in expecting anything good from life. We’re all lured to understand the truth of who we are and what life is about. The conclusions we often make about ourselves lead us to identify certain circumstances, people or situations that positively or adversely affected our lives and emotions. In turn, this helps us justify, good or bad, our actions and reactions to present day matters, thus affecting our life decisions and how we feel about our self, to include our self-worth as individuals. At some level, we are all victims of our past and with it damaged by it.
Can We Really Think Rationally?
We’d like to think of ourselves as highly rational beings, but I’ve concluded that we’re really not as rationale as we’d would like to think. We may find ourselves making impulsive and rash decisions based on how we feel or what we believe by logical and conclusive facts. We may also find ourselves evaluating situations based on our sense of reality which is largely shaped by our personal attitudes, desires and resulting emotions tied to our past. The fact is that although we may feel and believe a certain way doesn’t make it “true”. For example, one may feel that that he/she is a failure or may be unloved or stupid, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. Our personality-based feelings, perceptions, beliefs and attitudes significantly influenced by our past experiences, bias our perception of reality and the truth. The truth is that nobody knows the truth about what the reality of any situation. This view may be difficult to accept, but it is true. A real-life truth is that we, by our own abilities, can never determine or find the truth about any situation or circumstance, to include truths that pertain to our own state of being. The sooner we accept this truth, the sooner we are able to be set free of our past and current life circumstances. To believe otherwise, means that we had a part in our own creation.
Can We Change Who We Are?
Can we really change who we are? There is no shortage of theories or self-help books that suggest we can change ourselves. The fact is that until we know the truth about ourselves and what influenced who we have become, there is no accurate understanding of what we need to change. Second, psychology theories and personality self-help books assume that we have the power within us to change ourselves. Many believe this and an equal number have failed to provide meaningful change in their personality. Why? Because we don’t have the power to change ourselves. Meaningful and lasting change can only be achieved by first acknowledging the source of our creation - our Almighty Father and Creator in Heaven and the truth He holds for each and everyone one of us - even before we came into the world.
Do You Understand What It Means to Be "Born Again"?
As believers in Jesus Christ, we may sometimes forget that we are no longer human beings tied to our past circumstances. Failing to do so means we are not receiving one of the greatest gifts God has given us through His Son. The opportunity to become brand new beings, existing not in worldly realm, but a spiritual realm. When we gave our life to Christ, we must remember that we were “born again”. We must see and understand this in its most literal sense. To be "born again" is not symbolic in nature. It literally means that when we gave our life to Jesus Christ, we were re-birthed into an entirely different person, and with it a new beginning. Our life slate is wiped completely clean as if it never existed. We are born anew with no ties to who we once were as a person. Paul tells us in Romans 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with,…”. It’s important to understand too that when we are reborn, we are incorruptible (1 Peter 1:23) if we abide in Christ (and He in us) for all things (John 15:4-5). Why?
There is Only One Way To Change Who We Are
Real and meaningful change can only be achieved by knowing the truth – “not the truths of man”, but rather God’s truths. Second, the truth about anything can only be found in the One He Sent, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We are called to hear Him and only Him for He is the only truth and the true way. More specifically in Matthew 17:5, we are instructed on this truth “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” In this verse, God "commands" us to listen to and hear the truths, which only come from His Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The truth about everything, even those that we define for ourselves, can be found no other way. To believe otherwise will only result in us withering away.
Choosing Not To Be “Damaged Goods”
Although following man’s or the world's assumed truths may provide temporary feelings of relief and gratification, we ultimately learn over time that these truths were Satan's lies and deceptions. As believers, we must resist any effort to believe and follow any theory or model that suggests we can change ourselves by our own abilities. Trying to do so reveals our prideful spirit and assumes we can control our destiny. The truth is that we are in control of nothing, not even our lives. However, we are in control of our decisions and the most important decisions to make is to recognize our spiritual poverty (our need to become humble) and our need for Christ to change us. It is only by this path can we find the way to remove the pain and hurt that permeates our soul and adulterates our spirit. It is only by this path can we remove the hurt and pain that scars us or has left open wounds to contend with in our lives. It is only by this path can we know the truth about all things. It is only by this path can we find the inner peace and rest that we have longed searched for, but evaded us. It is only by Christ can we begin to understand our own value as a person and the value of others – a value that is not affixed by man, but rather by our Heavenly Father and Creator. It is only by Christ that we no longer see and act as "damaged goods", but rather as "prized goods".