The Nature of Personality Change
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.
via Romans 7.
Qualitative and quantitive research has shown that personality traits tend to remain relatively stable in adults, although certain life-changing events have been linked to major changes in core measures of temperament.
via Discover Magazine.
Recently, I’ve realized that my personality kinda sucks. I’ve noticed this before to an extent, but recently, I’ve been just getting into scraps with people, both offline and online, and I’m wondering why.
My father made a few comments to me on Facebook, and while at first I resisted them, and tried to think of all the ways that what he was saying was just so off…when I looked back over the comments, I realized he was spot-on.
I have pretty strong opinions sometimes (don’t we all?), but combined with strong opinions, I seem to have little self-awareness or control about how and in what venues to express those opinions. As a result, I piss a lot of people off.
This in and of itself isn’t so big of a deal, but the problem is that I also don’t really pay attention to whom I’m pissing off…and so while so far I’ve just been making some minor enemies with people I don’t really have to deal with, sometime in the future, I could piss off someone who has a lot more power over things that go on in my life. And that’s no good.
…to be honest, I’ve noticed this lack of self-control because of my graciousness project. What I’ve noticed is that I don’t really think about what I’m doing or saying when I’m saying them…and I don’t really self-assess in the moment either…if anything, I assess far after the fact, or only when something negative happens (e.g., the other person reacts). And it’s only then that I realize that I have failed.
So I have a conundrum…even when I recognize that there are things about my nature that I need to change, it’s really difficult even to begin changing them because, well, these things are pretty habitual and characteristic…it mostly happens on autopilot. (Think about it: my problem is that I am not self-critical…in other words, I need to learn somehow to turn off my autopilot. But how do I do that without falling into autopilot?)
In this way, it seems very similar to what Paul had to say to the Romans…unfortunately, Paul didn’t really have workable solutions. (At least, committing to Christ and just accepting that your nature is broken doesn’t seem to be a workable solution to me.)
My father had something to say, but again, I don’t know how to move from concept to practice:
Remember that it is easier to take advantage of the wisdom offered and move forward successfully than to have to learn the lesson painfully and hope you can recover.
And indeed, it makes sense conceptually. Yet, for a long time, I’ve thought that the only way you can truly learn a lesson is through learning it painfully. My very first post at Mormon Matters of why I almost went on a mission was virtually my epiphany that one could not live off the borrowed light and testimony of others. Seth R has expressed a similar concept in his criticism of those who have not earned their morals.
…but the thing about my father is that he has rejected that concept. He rejected it then and in his latest message, he continues to reject it. You shouldn’t have to learn the lesson painfully and then hope you can recover from whatever hurt you. You should be able to listen from others who are more wise…and somehow internalize the lesson.
I tried to think to my past…and I realized that I wasn’t always this way…and then I began to fear that over time, I’ve been devolving personality-wise. Before, I was pretty cautious and careful with what I said.
…but then I realized that in fact, I never was completely like that. Rather, I was always the same as I seem to be now…but years back, I got burned by it. And because I was burned, I stopped trusting anyone and stopped talking to or engaging with anyone beyond the bare minimum*.
37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
In reality, that was probably an overcompensation. And so, over time, I’ve thought that I’ve “healed” from the event and that I’ve become more at ease with people…and that’s true…but what’s also true is that I’ve simply become the same person I was before everything happened. Someone with strong opinions who doesn’t watch to whom he expresses those opinions.
…so, it seems that I have little track record of changing my personality through preventive measures…it’s always been proactive. It feels like I’ve always relied on life-changing events…and even though can lose effect over time…
*Some people say that introversion is a disorder caused by a negative experience…and that in actuality, since all humans are “social beings,” then all functional humans will be extroverted. I don’t buy this idea at all, but I think that given everything in my life, I still tend toward introversion as a way of re-energizing, but if I am in a crowd of people I know, I will tend to be very outgoing.