In last night’s group study, we were discussing the prevalence of so many destructive attitudes and behaviors among the world’s population. Specifically, we were looking at two lists of character traits found in Romans 1:28-32 and 2 Timothy 3:1-4 — traits such as envy, strife, violence, untrustworthiness, lack of self-control, brutality, etc. Why is it, we wondered, that so many people choose to live this kind of life, when it produces results that are so predictably destructive and depressing?
One participant, Clyde (not his real name), offered an explanation that answered the question wonderfully (and if you knew Clyde’s background, you would respect him as an expert on the subject). He explained that people who live that kind of life crave the enticements of the world at the same time they curse the consequences of that lifestyle. Somehow they can never see the connection between the two, so they go on forever chasing the “fun” and “excitement” that is dangled in front of them, while complaining about how unfair life is to them.
Life is really not hard to figure out, if we would just take the trouble to look at it objectively. This world and everything in it, including our lives, operates according to natural laws or principles that are not subject to our review or approval. That’s not a religious truth claim; it’s a simple statement of observable fact.
The secret to a life well-lived, therefore, is to figure out what those laws are, how they operate, and make decisions that increase the potential for positive outcomes based on those laws. Of course, as free moral agents we can choose to ignore the laws and pretend they don’t exist; but we will likely pay a price in doing so. That’s not the world’s fault; that’s our fault.
If we choose to let our lives be dominated by the cravings of our lower nature, we’re perfectly free to do so. But cursing the world for how those choices turn out doesn’t solve the problem. If you don’t want those outcomes, then reconsider your choices. Why is that so hard to figure out?