I had to fight the surge of frustration rising up as I dealt with Princess Pea and her bedtime protesting. Thoughts ran through my head during this internal battle along the lines of “She’s two, bedtime is not fun unless she’s beyond tired.” “well two or not, it’s bedtime and this will set up for a better day tomorrow” “it’s still light out.” “Did she seriously just pull my hair again! Ooo that little” “Angel. Keep calm, yelling and reacting will only lead to an emotional bedtime.” And so on. When I finally was able to calm myself down and distance my emotions from the situation, I hated the way I felt. I hated that she fell asleep to hearing me on the phone with Superman telling him how naughty she had been. I hated that I had not taken my frustrations to the Lord instead of venting to Superman loudly.
I’ve touched on how guilt is to the soul what pain is to the physical body. I’ve also talked about how we can choose anything (including our emotional reactions). I’ve honestly wanted to write about this topic for a long time, but I feel like I’ve danced around it so many times that it may just come across redundant and old, but after my internal battles this week, how could I not?
1 Corinthians 2:14 says “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Compare this with Mosiah 3:19 “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
I’m sure you picked up on the key term: The Natural Man (probably because I highlighted it). What is the natural man? Well according to the verse in Mosiah, it’s an enemy to God and has been since the Fall and will be forever and ever. Besides an enemy, what is the natural man?
Often the natural man is viewed as primal, impulsive, dumb. I mean, Corintians lays it out with foolishness and not knowing. The natural man is everything that God is not. The natural man is that part of you that does what feels good in the moment with no regard to consequences (you know, the one that eats the entire package of Oreos in one sitting). The natural man is the one that fights against long term goals. I don’t know about you, but when I heard the term “Natural Man” as a kid, I imagined a troll like version of myself going around and ruining my life.
Ether 12: 27 relates directly to this “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Weakness is singular. This was pointed out to me by a friend. There is only one weakness and that weakness is the natural man. That makes all the Oreo eating, bedtime yelling, and laziness seem more bearable. All those actions are really just one weakness, the natural man. One weakness doesn’t make me feel racked with pain that I will never measure up, I will never become more than I am. One weakness seems doable.
Why am I talking about this? Well let’s frolic through the thoughts. Today it seems that our culture’s main belief is denial is bad. Why fight your instincts? Why fight what feels good? Just accept who you are naturally. This thought process is a lie. This is wrong because guess what… You are not a body. You are a spirit living in a body. Doing what the body feels is natural is actually going against your true nature, your spiritual nature.
The argument of not denying yourself that entire package of Oreos because it’s natural doesn’t make it healthy. I know I’ve had those urges, the one to sit around and look at Facebook on my phone all day, the one to order pizza rather than make the healthy dinner I planned, the one where I binge watch or read, the one where I give into every little thing Princess Pea wants because it feels natural and good; those urges are all the natural man, but he can also be blamed for the urge to make death threats to people that have a difference of opinion on Social Media or the desire to make stupid choices we know are wrong, but who cares, cause it’s natural. Right?
I’ve been to the zoo many times in my life, I did my internship at a farm, I have my very own personal science guy for a husband, I’ve watched the animal documentaries that sometimes grace Animal Planet (you think they’d show more). I know enough about animal and animal behavior to know that I do not want to be an animal. Eating off the floor is one thing, sniffing butts, licking yourself, you get the picture, all of that is something that I personally have no interest in doing, but that is not what makes me wary of the natural man, it’s the lack of self control.
I think I’ve mentioned before that self control is a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Well the same with the natural man, the more you give into the persuasive dance of the natural man, the harder it gets to not give in.
I know this girl who told me she started smoking. She said that she understood it was a stupid and unhealthy habit, but she wanted to choose to do it anyway. Why? If you know something is harmful to you, why do it? Natural man that’s why. It’s never been a secret that there are things that will hurt us, like jumping in front of a speeding train, dancing naked in subzero temperatures, trying to lift weights while standing on an exercise ball (but the youtube videos are awesome), most people avoid these things.
I’m not saying hey, if it feels right it must be wrong. Rather I am saying, look to the source of the urge. Will it bring you long time happiness, or will smoking because “hey why not?” become a deep regret later down the road.
Life is about setting ourselves up for the future. It’s a giant game of Othello. You have to plan and strategies where you are going to go to maximize your number of pieces on the board. Sure going in the corner may bring you temporary success, but at what cost? When Superman and I were dating, I bragged that I was really good at the game of Othello. We played it and he creamed me. We played several rounds (it doesn’t take that long) and he won all of them. Finally he took pity on me and let me win, which was not satisfying at all.
We all are playing a giant game of Othello, but rather than playing against a perfect strategist, we’re playing against ourselves: the natural man versus the spiritual man. The only question is who do you want to win? Which one will make you happier? (hint: it’s not the natural man, don’t let him win.)
Fighting the urges, the impulses, the natural man is actually good for us. It is our nature. It is who we are, and challenges to be better. Baby steps will get us there. In the meantime, I will continue working on controlling my bedtime frustrations.
Othello is one of my favorite board games, what is your favorite board game?