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What is the Meaning of Life

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Lesson 121 of 208
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The Mr. Hyde Personality

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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 121 The Mr. Hyde Personality by Ernest O’Neill

One of the most wearing things for most of us is summed up in a sentence that comes from the heart of most men and women today. It’s a verse from a well-known, old book that we were taught to respect in our childhood days. The statement runs like this, “I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” I think most of you listening today know that experience in your own life.

We plan to have a beautiful evening with our wives. We plan to have a wonderful Saturday outing with the children. Then, either our wife says something that offends us or the children do something that we didn’t expect them to do and before we know it, these peace-loving, Gandhi-type individuals that we thought we were have turned into raving monsters that create a hideous war that ends up the day in a tragedy instead of in a delight. I think all of us know that experience.

Probably you, like me, have determined that you would be most understanding and most kind to your wife on a certain day, and yet something crops up. Some letter comes through the mail or someone says something about a certain situation that you were not prepared to receive and before you know it, you’ve either lost your temper or all your good resolutions have gone to the wind. You end up making the person that you say you love miserable.

That is what we have termed the “Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome.” That’s what we have been talking about for really the past two weeks or so on this program. The title of the program is, “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?” and we have been looking at some of the phenomena of life itself that might help to give us understanding of the meaning of life and its purpose and why we are all here.

What we have been sharing is the various experiences that all of us have in this Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome. You remember, “Jekyll and Hyde” was the novel that was written by Robert Louis Stevenson about the respectable Doctor Jekyll who, in the evenings, turned into a hideous monster called Hyde who was guilty of all kinds of violence and hateful actions.

That’s why we call it the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome, because most of us seem to have an experience of a hideous monster inside, a monster that seems to be filled with selfishness and filled with a desire for its own way and that contrasts with the civilized veneer that we wear on the outside. Now, the problem with most of us is, we really don’t believe that that hideous monster is the real us.

Nor, of course, can we say that the real us is the civilized, respectable side that we would like to think is us. We suspect that the true “us” lies somewhere between these two personalities. Of course, our constant aim in this life is to make the good overcome the evil. That’s what we’re hoping all the time to do. That’s what we spend our whole lives doing, starting from when we were children.

Our teachers encouraged us to be self-disciplined and to be self-contained and self-controlled, right up to the time when our parents encouraged us to be loving and understanding, right up through the time when our college professors encouraged us to let the classic virtues of self-control and of truthfulness and honesty predominate, right up through the present experience that we have in our particular careers or our trades where our employers or our employees encourage us to be upstanding and to be kindly and generous in our dealing with them.

Yet, all of us face the impossibility of getting the good to predominate. Part of the problem is, we don’t really face the fact that this monstrosity inside us is us. That’s part of our problem. We don’t realize or accept that, partly because we don’t know how to get rid of it. We feel that if we admit it’s there, then we are faced with an impossible defeat for the rest of our lives.

So, most of us spend our days walking around this monstrosity of self, or reading books on how to control your temperament, or how to think positively or how to be a better person. We feel all the time that we are trying to tame a roaring, hideous, evil lion with a piece of candy. We feel that we are trying to tame something that actually cannot be tamed. Of course, most of us have had that experience. We’ve encouraged our good side a little and tried to discourage our bad side.

We think that we are beginning to get on top of it when suddenly the bad side breaks out into another hideous display of temper that blows our whole family life and domestic life apart or that creates in us that desire to be the most ugly and lustful creature we could ever imagine. We feel at times that we are just beginning to overcome the evil in us and suddenly it breaks out again worse than before.

That’s one of the incredible and ironic and impossible signs of this old self within us. That is, it seems to get stronger the more years we pass in this world. It seems to get stronger and more subtle. It doesn’t seem to get weaker. Indeed, what seems to get weaker is, as in the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Dr. Jekyll seems to get weaker. The respectable, civilized, moral side of us seems to get weaker and get more worn out as the years go by.

Part of the problem, therefore, that most of us face in this life -– it’s probably the biggest problem that we face — is how to get rid of this evil side or how to make the good side predominate. This problem becomes acute in a situation like alcoholism, or drug addiction, or homosexuality, or lesbianism, or really, the other things that are equally as great: constant dishonesty, constant boastfulness, a tendency to lie or to veil the truth, or to speak half truths, a tendency to criticize or to be sarcastic with other people. These particular vices are what destroy not only our own lives, but the lives with whom we live and work.

So, that phenomenon is a very real one that probably you know intimately yourself. What we have been talking about is the origin of that phenomenon, and why it seems so impossible for us to overcome it or to tame it in any way. You remember, what we have said is that it ties up directly with the two ways that we have of living life here in this world. We can either live it as if there is no Creator, as if there is no Originator behind the sky and the clouds, the wood, the steel, the automobiles, the air, the wind, the ocean, the rivers. We can live as if there is no Originator behind all those things.

It’s as if there is no personal Creator, as if those things came about by some wild chance of time plus an evolutionary process that had no direction in it. We can either live that way, believing that and living that way, in which case we are left pretty much on our own. Or, we can live as if there is an Originator, as if there is a personal Creator behind all this and as if He is actually the one that lives behind our life. We can live as if it is Him and His friendship that we really need.

So, we can live one way or the other. We can either live as if there is a Creator, or we can live as if there isn’t a Creator. If we live as if there isn’t a Creator, of course we are in pretty tight straits, because there are five billion of us now in this universe, there will be ten billion by about the year 2030. But there are about five billion of us now on this planet. Everyone one of us thinks we are important and thinks we’re unique.

Yet none of the rest seem to believe that. So, all of us are trying to get everybody else’s attention to see how unique we are. That creates an awful lot of egos to be satisfied. That drives us to jealousy. It drives us to pride. It drives us to ambition.

It’s the same with the material possessions that are available in this world. There are five billion of us striving to get enough of them to keep body and soul together. That means an awful lot of people trying to get an awful lot from whatever material possessions there are here in the world. That means a great deal of greed, a great deal of covetousness, a great deal of grabbing what we want, whatever it costs anybody else. That produces the tremendous, monstrous, selfish drive within us that we talk about as the Mr. Hyde.

There are, of course, the remains of the Dr. Jekyll in us because, actually, there is a Creator. It makes sense that there is a Creator behind the order we see around us and the personalities that we all have. There is in us a similar drive towards trusting that Creator. That’s briefly the explanation of where these two sides of our nature come from. Let’s talk tomorrow a little more about them and how to be delivered from one into the other.


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