How Your Brain Bends You Constantly Towards Evil (and How to Stop It)

evil -- create an evil human being

Credit: Lenore Edman. Flickr.com. Creative Commons.

There is a part of you that simply feels things, but has no capacity at all for language, or any other abstract ideas such as time, grace, love, truth, or justice. That part of you, the seat of your emotions in the brain, the part of you that just feels, is called the limbic system.

That explains why, when someone hurts you and then apologizes, you may genuinely forgive them and yet the pain may linger for quite some time. Your limbic brain doesn’t understand right and wrong, or apologies — all abstract ideas — it just feels. So it takes time for the feelings to subside. While that time passes, most people (especially religious ones), beat themselves up for not genuinely forgiving.

The takeaway here: There’s literally nothing you can do about it. It just takes time.

There is another part of your brain (this is called the “triune brain” theory, by the way), even more primitive, called the lizard brain. The lizard brain controls more or less automatic things like your heartbeat, digestion, swallowing, etc. This is located in the brain stem. The “fight or flight” mechanism is located here.

The stem is the most basic part of the brain. It is wrapped in the limbic brain, and then the neocortex (the part that evolved most recently) is on the outside.

Why does any of this matter?

Suffering That Hurts vs. Suffering That Helps

suffering that hurts -- suffering that helps -- man alone suffering

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My original post on this topic concluded with these lines:

Both living in truth and living in falsehood bring suffering.

In my next post, I’ll talk about why the suffering that truth brings is better.

Have you ever had a terrible, miserable, horrible, awful experience that, when it’s over, you look back on it and say, “That was beyond horrible– but I wouldn’t trade it for anything”?

Most people have.

Severe illness of yourself or illness/death of a loved one.

A major business/financial failure.

A divorce.

To live is to have horrible experiences, to go through stuff that really, really sucks.

It sucks away your passion.

It sucks away your enthusiasm and joy.

For a while, it sucks away a lot of what you have always recognized as your life.

But when you look back on those experiences and know you wouldn’t trade them for anything, that’s because they were redemptive. Something good came out of them. You know you’re better for all the suffering you did.

You’re better. Or stronger. Or wiser. Or more compassionate. Or deeper. Or gentler. Or more humble, or calm, or patient, or honest.

You’re just better.

Often suffering isn’t in our control, but sometimes it is.

And anytime you  have a choice in the matter, always choose redemptive suffering over non-redemptive suffering.

“The Spirit in You”
by David Flowers/Wildwind Community Church

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Sermon Podcast
May 25, 2014

In the first of two stand-alone messages, Dave looks at Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit.

When you talk to true combat veterans very few remain “Gung-Ho” after seeing combat…they carry tremendous guilt even though many times there was no choice to their actions…killing ALWAYS damages the person doing the killing .

It’s the same with hatred and anger…it will consume your life if you let it…even if you were a victim and have every right to your anger…at some point you have to decide that the way to a peaceful life…a life of true meaning and rich experiences is love and forgiveness….not hatred and anger. It’s just the way it is. That’s nature (I believe divine nature). It does not matter if we/you believe it….it is TRUE…it is the way we are built.

“You cannot break the laws of nature….you can only break yourself against them.”

The Reality That Is Making Me More Liberal (theologically)

Crowd of People -- working with people

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People who don’t work with people day in and day out, in the trenches of their lives, can afford to philosophize about people, to make up abstractions, and talk about the rightness/wrongness of people in philosophical terms, holding people up to their abstractions and deciding who fits and who is lacking and how so.

But in all my years working with people, for example, I’ve never seen “homosexuality.” Never once.