“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
— Romans [7:19]
FOUR WAYS TO RESOLVE THE INNER CONFLICT OF DOING GOOD
When I first read this verse, I was stunned. How could Paul think this about himself? The Apostle Paul was the earliest Christian writer of the Bible. Inspired by God, he is credited with thirteen of the books in the New Testament. He was largely responsible for starting the Christian movement outside of Jerusalem. His travels to spread the Gospel were extensive, dangerous, and met with skepticism wherever he went. How could this man of extraordinary faith write this verse?
“We all want to think of ourselves as good, but are inherently disappointed when we aren’t.”
In reflection, I realized that Paul is answering one of the most basic questions each of us has with ourselves. We all want to think of ourselves as good, but are inherently disappointed when we sometimes aren’t. We don’t always do the things we know we should, and later in our internal dialogue we question our actions. We go to an important business meeting or interview, full of hope on what we want to accomplish and say, and at times we fall short of being perfect in doing what we hoped. This is the dilemma Paul is talking about. How come we can’t always be who we know we should be?
The verse gives us hope in the natural human condition, that we all know good. The test is converting this knowledge into action. When we are in an interview, we hope to get the job. But when confronted with a tough question, do we answer completely honestly or do we shade our answers slightly? It is the lure and need of the job that begins to twist us away. Our failures arise from things we want and have the freedom we have to spin the truth to get them. Perhaps it’s also taking a shortcut when no one else is looking. Perhaps it’s massaging some numbers to make our projects look better. It is these points that cause us sometimes to drift into not being who we want to be.
“Through a life of connected prayer and reflection, Jesus helps us move away from our internal conflicts.”
There are many solutions to this dilemma.
- The first is to become more aware of these temptations.
- The second is to see the benefit to our reputation of being honest over the long term.
- The third is to recognize that our responsibility is to helping others.
- Lastly and most importantly is the realization that we are inherently good and that our feeling of personal want in these situations needs to diminish to create this greater sense of self-worth.
Even Paul, the greatest of all evangelists, struggled with this concept. It is the natural human condition.
Through a life of connected prayer and reflection, Jesus helps us move away from our internal conflicts.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
How often do we reflect on our inner condition?
What are the things we do to diminish our goodness?
How do we strengthen ourselves to avoid the natural state of want?