Description: Futility of trying to tame the evil nature
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Humanity’s Evil Nature 1
by Ernest O’Neill
What can you do about that thing inside you that continues to make you do what you don’t want? What can you
do about it — that part of you that prevents you doing the good thing that you want to do? Because if you’re
like me and like the rest of us, you’ve found that out already in your life. There’s part of you that wants
to live right, and there’s part of you that wants to prevent you living right. So, at times you feel it’s
almost a schizophrenia that you’re experiencing, a split personality.
There seems to be a part of you that wants to do good, and a part of you that wants to do bad; a part of you
that loves the good, and a part of you that loves the evil. There’s a part of you that wants to live the way
your Maker wanted you to live depending on Him to supply you with your needs as long as you did what He put
you here on the earth to do. That part wants to depend on Him and His love for you to give you a sense of
self-worth and self-esteem.
It wants to depend on your friendship with Him so that you enjoy skiing down the steepest ski slopes, so that
you enjoy skiing on the water and the lakes, so that you enjoy sailing and swimming in His world. There’s a
part of you that wants to enjoy those things, and then there’s another part of you that wants to get what you
want for yourself by your own effort, however much it costs anybody else.
There’s a part of you that wants to impose yourself on other people so that you force them to respect you, and
to look up to you and to give you that self-esteem and self-worth that you really were meant to get from your
Maker, who loves you and thinks of you as the unique limited edition that He has produced of you alone. There
is part of us that wants to live in trust of our Maker and there’s part of us that wants to live in trust of
There’s part of us that wants to depend on our Father who made us and on His provision of the food, shelter
and clothing that we may need. There’s part of us that wants to get that from the things that we possess, from
our stocks and shares, from our home and our mortgage, from the bank account, from all the money that we have
invested. There’s part of us that wants to depend on the Maker, the one significant other in the whole
universe, and what He thinks of us and His approval of us.
There’s another part of us that wants to depend on what our peers think of us, what our boss thinks of us,
what our wives think of us, what our children think of us, and come under men-fear because of that. There’s
part of us that wants to depend on our friendship with our Maker, and on the thrill of knowing the heart of
the One who has made the Rocky Mountains, and on the heart of the One who has made the Amazon River.
There’s part of us that wants to get happiness from the things that happen to us, the circumstances that
surround us, from a sunny day as opposed to a rainy day, from a vacation as opposed to a day when we’ve come
back from vacation, from a Friday as opposed to a Monday morning at 8:00 a.m.
So, there seems to be within us a nature that opposes living in dependence upon God. Yet, there’s part of us
that wants to depend upon Him. I mean, as we outlined it to each other over these months, you must admit it’s
a much more attractive life to live with a dear Father who cares for us so that we can reproduce the liberty
and the delight and the freedom from worry that we used to have as children.
It’s a much more attractive life than that old life, you remember, that one of our poets talks about, “In
tears, and in sweating, we lay waste our days.” We wear away our days. “In headaches and in worry, vaguely
life leaks away.” Isn’t that the way one of the poets put it? “In headaches and in worry, vaguely life leaks
away.” So, for most of us, that’s the way life goes. “In headaches and in worry, vaguely life leaks away.”
The life that we are meant to live in dependence on our Creator is a much more attractive life than that.
There’s part of us that rises to that, and wants that, and delights in it. We glimpse that at times when we
see a comedian who is really laughing or really makes us laugh. For a moment, we feel that. When we see a
little baby just born, for a moment we see all the beauty and the gentleness of life.
When we see our own children, when they’re young, trusting us implicitly for all that they need, we catch a
glimpse of what Wordsworth talked about when he said, “Heaven lies about us in our infancy. Shades of the
prison house begin to close around the growing boy. At length, the man perceives it die away, and fade into
the light of common day.”
So, most of us know that there’s a part of our nature that rises to what God intended us to do and the way He
intended us to live. Yet, there’s this other part of our nature that seems more truly us, somehow, because
it’s been bred into us through the years of our own choices, and it’s been bred into us through the centuries
of our forbears, so that we have this evil, sinful, old selfish nature that rises up, and loses its temper,
and gets angry and kicks over the traces, and destroys friends and relatives alike for its own sake.
How do you get rid of that? Most of us have tried all kinds of ways. We’ve tried power of positive thinking.
We’ve tried reading the books that teach you how to control your temperament. We’ve tried thinking good things
about other people. We’ve tried all kinds of tricks. But, the truth is that this nature seems untamable. It
seems irrepressible. You control it for a while by reading this book or by reading that book, and suddenly it
pops up again.
You get some kind of control of your selfishness, and you think you’ve won the battle over that, and so you’ll
move on to your pride. After you’ve worked on your pride for a while, you find your selfishness is striking
up again. It’s like a person coming to visit you and you have a huge St. Bernard dog. You know that this
person hates dogs. So, you want him to feel that there’s no dog in the house, so that he won’t have any
allergies as long as he just comes in and visits you.
So you put the St. Bernard dog in a huge wooden chest and you sit on top of it to keep the dog down. You
welcome your friend into the living room, and begin to talk to him. Of course, the old dog is trying to get
out, and from time to time, he bumps up against the door of the chest. Of course, you’re popping up and down,
trying to pretend that there’s no dog there at all.
It’s often like that with this old nature. It pops up again at the most inconvenient moments. It tries to
force its way up into open action whenever it can. Most of the time, we manage to keep it down. We manage to
keep the anger covered. We manage to keep the envy and the pride covered when we’re complimenting somebody.
We manage to keep the resentment and the criticism covered when we’re smiling and being apparently outwardly
friendly with a person.
But, from time to time, it manages to burst out and to express itself outwardly. It seems as if it is
impossible to do anything about that nature. It seems it cannot be trained. It cannot be tamed. It cannot
be repressed. It cannot be psychoanalyzed. It can only be temporarily ameliorated. Then, it seems to come
back stronger than ever.
So, most of us who have lived many years on this earth would testify that though we have appeared to gain
some kind of control of it, yet we know that it has just become more subtle in its expressions. But, it still
is there, this old selfish nature that we cannot seem to control. There seems no answer to it. Indeed, most
religious people say there’s no answer to it. They say the only thing is to get forgiveness for it. But you
really can’t do anything about it. All you can do is keep on trying.
But, there is no way out. There is no way out of living a defeated life that is from time to time overcome by
this old selfish nature within. So, most people feel that that’s what we’re condemned to in this life. The
truth is, that that nature is incredibly powerful. You’re foolish if you think that it’s just you. It’s not
just you. It’s a whole independent attitude that our human race has developed through the centuries.
It’s an attitude that has been bred into us for years. It’s not just your mum and dad that have said to you,
“Look, if you don’t look after yourself, nobody else will look after you” We’ve been saying that to our
children for generations, so that it’s bred into us. Our very nature has become twisted and perverted. So,
when you deal with that old selfish nature, it’s not just something that you’re producing in your life. It’s
something that has been bred into us for centuries.
It has a supernatural power to it. That’s why when you try to control it, you’re trying to control something
that is bigger than your own human nature.
Is there anyone that can do anything about that? Yes, there is. Let’s talk about it tomorrow.