They say that ninety nine percent of all living things can and do control ninety nine percent of everything that makes them living, breathing creatures. The remaining one percent just don’t have that mechanism that makes them ordered and controlled members of “society”; the rogue lion that hunts and kills humans, the alpha gorilla that strikes down and murders younger, weaker members of the group for no reason, the human that collects assault rifles and one day uses them to shoot hundreds at a nearby school, church or public event. This one percent just doesn’t possess that particular gene that’s been passed from generation to generation, or if they do have it, the gene has been corrupted or malformed in some unknown aspect that defies imagination.
And if we can say that ninety nine percent of us have that one percent of mystery DNA which we cannot effectively suppress or control, there must be something that steps in and calms the savage beast. We call that self–discipline. We all have the uncontrollable urge to do the “wrong” thing at the “wrong” time; to consume alcohol and become the life of the party, to say the most hideous thing at the most inopportune time, to cold bloodily murder in the name of emotion and passion. Sometimes the mystery DNA works for the good; the soldier who throws his body on a live grenade to save his buddies’ lives at the cost of his own, the hapless mother that lifts a car from her stricken child underneath. But more often than not, it is indeed evil that we are speaking of.
And then there’s the thing known as instinct. Animals don’t particularly “learn” things; they “do” things based on hereditary traits that have programmed them for success. However humans have a cognitive thing which we call “reason”. As humans we find the gray area between black and white more palatable. The hard extremes sometimes aren’t to our fancy so we rationalize, or reason. And this is what generally leads to problems. I look at a situation and “bend” reality to my fashion. The black and the white can’t be the expectation because neither satisfies my needs or wants, so I will always seek to find the gray area in between. I lack the self- discipline, sometimes because of laziness or apathy, or I hope and depend on others to insure my destruction. Either way I am breaking a rule which can sometimes lead to horrific results, even when I know what they will be. I can’t even rely on a “fight or flight” response when cornered, rather I seek to have others either bend with me, or break a rule or policy that they are indeed responsible for enforcing. I hope to corrupt the incorruptible.
So when I break the rule, haven’t I also broken the trust bestowed upon me? When I agree, read the rule and then sign off that I understand, can I really be trusted when I refuse to follow it? When we fail to follow through on our obligations we cannot and should not expect forgiveness or mercy. However, this is where that gray area may step in to save us. When we forgive a trespass that we have been forgiven before, we call it Grace. Because we were born into Sin, God sent his Son to die on a cross to liberate us all, and thus we live in the realm of choice; we either choose to live in our sin or pick up our own cross and follow Christ.
When I break a rule I’ve chosen not to accept it. I’ve also thrown those in a position of authority into a paradox of sorrow and guilt… for not only do they lament over the trust bestowed and misused, they must also balance the scales of accountability and judgement. We force them to sit in judgement of a peer–that which Jesus warned us against. We ask them to bestow discipline that should have been applied in the first place by the guilty party.
As for me I’m a 53 year old man that could, and should know better. I honestly and fully don’t know why I continue to make the little, stupid mistakes that sometimes harbor horrific results. I don’t make major ones, as I said I make little ones that keep me on the fringes of society…unable to join the world community in full fashion. Perhaps my complete lack of patience prevents the waiting that self-discipline calls for. Perhaps being the youngest child I was irretrievably spoiled and want what I want now, not later.
Or maybe I really couldn’t accept the deaths of my family. Maybe I really can’t accept the fact that I was “missing in action” during each and every one, unable to offer solace or comfort, unable to at least “be there” during the final moments.
And maybe I’ve relied on the above to cushion me all these years, to provide excuses for my addictions, to explain the failures I’ve endured with every single relationship, losing places of employment due to the slightest and stupid infractions, teetering on the precipice of this very, current program. I honestly haven’t been able to figure it all out. However, I do know the meaning of the word “accountability” and I’m trying to live my life in accordance. I’m not there yet but I’m much closer than I’ve ever been before.
So I’ve got a handle on ninety eight and a half percent of what makes me animate and I’m desperately wrapping my head around the remaining half percent. 53 years of learned behavior compels me to. The ramifications of rules broken, trust discarded, and honesty shamefully set aside for my own greater good, whatever fashion that may be, leaves quite the trail of collateral devastation. For once I can and will set aside the time necessary to become the person that’s deep inside of me. Now I know that it’s never too late!
EDITORS NOTE: I personally have talked with the author, Michael Lee, at our Tuesday evening fellowship meetings in the conference room of Liberty Ministries, in Schwenksville, PA. He came to participate in their residential, bible-based reentry program about 6 weeks ago. He feels that the hand of God led him to this excellent program, and he is seeing the world differently for the first time in his life. And for the first time, he has been sober and enjoying the blessing of Christian fellowship and support. He has a passion for writing and wants to pursue a career as a novelist. I thank him for sharing his insights with our readers, and wish him every success.