It is popular to think we are born as “blank slates”. That is our minds and spirits are empty and just waiting to be filled with knowledge and social behavior. It’s popular, but it’s simply not true. We do have a great capacity for learning and adjusting our behavior. But many of our characteristics and personality traits are visible almost immediately after birth. Our education then, is as much a ‘molding’ process as a ‘filling’ process. Yes, we are filled with names and dates and ideas, but how those are retained and developed within us is governed by the ‘machinery’ that we are born with.
Most of that ‘machinery’ is invisible to the eye but it is as vital and unique as the visible stuff. It involves such things as personality, will, communication with one another and relationships with one another — and basic functions that keep us alive. Every physical creature has a similar invisible aspect so perhaps a good label for it is animal mind. The Apostle Paul calls it our flesh nature.
There is another distinctly human part of the invisible ‘machinery’ that allows us to worship, pray and communicate with God. We’ll call that part our spirit. No other mortal creature has such a spirit.
Together, our mind and spirit form what we call our soul. The soul, once created, never ends — it is eternal. Even Sigmund Freud recognized that our invisible selves are in separate, but interrelated parts. Instead of soul, mind, and spirit he used the labels psyche, ego, id and super-ego. But I don’t think Freud ever commented on or even thought about the eternal nature of the psyche.
At birth, our minds and spirits are like sponges ready to soak up almost anything with which they come into contact. Whether it is the mind or spirit that gets the most attention and has the greatest opportunity to soak up things, determines which of those aspects controls our beliefs and behaviors.
In our culture, it’s frequently minds that become controlling aspects and spirits are left to atrophy. That circumstance is not what God had in mind, and it gets us into trouble. Our animal minds are easily influenced by evil resulting in sin. But the Christian spirit is resistant to evil because it is in constant contact with and guided by the Holy Spirit.
So, how do we fix that? How do we re-arrange our invisible selves so our spirits are in control?
Your physical presence — your body — has a name. You know that name. But you have another name — a name you don’t know. God has given you an eternal name (Is 56:5). That name is in the Book of Life. Today, only God knows that name but someday you will know it too (Rev 2:17). The fact that such a name exists suggests a strategy for getting our souls in order.
Suppose that you (the spiritual you) were to address you (the physical you) by name. Several things could be accomplished that way. First, you would begin to sort out your spirit from your mind. Those have been in such intimate contact throughout your life that it’s probably not easy to distinguish one from the other. Second, it allows your spirit to distance itself from your animal mind. That’s important because it allows you (the spiritual you) to discipline your animal mind — which I’m pretty sure it needs or you would be without sin.
So instead of saying to yourself, “How should I have handled that situation?” say, “How should _____ have handled the situation?” (put your name in the blank). Addressing yourself in the second person is not only a great step toward putting your spirit in control, but recent research shows it can also reduce anxiety and apprehension.
The more you use this strategy, the more clear the distinction between spirit and mind will become and the more easily your spirit can be in control. Address yourself that way not only in tense situations, but in every situation. Sometimes the animal mind will resist, but keep at it. This strategy really works. Try it — You’ll see!
Please let me know your thoughts and experiences. I would love to hear about them.
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