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Dear Dr. Matt:
My name is Lacey Mae and im currently a high school student and working on a psychology project. My subject is about violence. Is it learned or is it instinct. Is it due to nature or nurture. I was wondering if you would answer a couple of my questions on this subject? It would be very much appreciated.
Related Article: Five Methods for Knowing Truth
Dear Lacey Mae:
At the end of this article I will explain why human beings are violent, first I must explain why the answer to your question depends upon assumptions about human existence. If a person assumes that Evolution explains the emergence of human life, then, the reasons why human beings are violent become very different, compared to the reasons that flow from a Creationist Ontology.
Given about the same care in the first years of life, any mother who has given birth to more than one child can tell you that each child develops different tendencies. On this basis, it is fair to conclude that some people are MORE predisposed to be violent compared to others, when faced with the same irritating constraint.
On the other hand, it is clear that children are impacted by the examples of their parents and peers: On this basis, people learn to be violent, and their violent behavior is a reflection of their upbringing.
Regardless of whether a violent tendency is part of a person's natural disposition, OR whether a person has learned violent behavior patterns, in both cases, each person chooses to be violent through an act of free will — a choice for which he or she bears responsibility and accountability.
The idea that people are genuinely accountable for their actions only exists within a creationist ontology. Within this paradigm, people will ultimately account to a Creator for choices made in mortal life. This means there will be justice for every act of violence. Further the same Creator that holds human beings accountable also offers a way to escape violent tendencies — whether inborn or learned (see 1 Cor. 10:13).
If being responsible and accountable for our violent choices is NOT the reality of human existence, then life would be unfair — with no ultimate justice in sight. Assuming Evolution, there are many people who will "get away with it." In contrast, within the Creationist paradigm, no one will "get away with it."
If one assumes an evolutionary ontology, there is no consistent justice for a myriad of violent acts; specifically, violent acts perpetrated by those who "get away with it." If Big Bang is the truth of our beginnings, with monkeys being our uncles, then there is no Perfect Being to offer complete and comprehensive Justice. Hence "accountability" has no meaning, and prisons become filled with perpetrators that were either "born that way," or had "abusive and violent upbringings" (Charles Manson, for example).
Because Psychology is a science, the default position of all sciences is Evolution. And within this Ontology, questions of fairness and justice cannot be satisfied. Logically, the ontology of Creation provides more adequate answers in comparison.
Eckhart Tolle offers an explanation of Evolutionary Beginnings:
"It is believed that the life-forms on this planet first evolved in the sea. When there were no animals yet to be found on land, the sea was already teeming with life. Then at some point, one of the sea creatures must have started to venture onto dry land. It would perhaps crawl a few inches at first, then, exhausted by the enormous gravitational pull of the planet, it would return to the water, where gravity is almost nonexistent and where it could live with much greater ease. And then it tried again and again and again, and much later would adapt to life on land, grow feet instead of fins, develop lungs instead of gills. It seem unlikely that a species would venture into such an alien environment and undergo an evolutionary transformation unless it was compelled to do so by some crisis situation. There may have been a large sea area that got cut off from the main ocean where the water gradually receded over thousands of years, forcing fish to leave their habitat and evolve." (New Earth, p. 20).
Give Eckhart Tolle credit: At least he is brave enough to offer a theory on how Evolution might have occurred. Most evolutionists avoid the subject, for fear that their explanation will appear ridiculous (as Tolle's does). Atheists hide behind science and say "because I don't see God thus He is not there." This means, atheists opt for the fairy tale that Fish Grew Feet, not to mention the Big Bang that created something from nothing.
If Tolle's explanation is to be believed, long before Humans were Monkeys, they were Tuna. I'm still waiting for the evolutionary atheist to write a book entitled "My Grandfather, the Tuna," wherein is given detailed scientific evidence that it is feasible, at all, for Tuna to Grow Feet and Develop Lungs, and lose their fins and gills. As to the human origin, Tolle is echoing a belief that was asserted around 550 B.C. by Greek Philosopher Anaximander:
"Living creatures arose from the moist element as it was evaporated by the sun. Man was like another animal, namely a fish, in the beginning."
Do you think human beings might grow gills and fins, if they dove into the ocean again and again and again? And why not, if the opposite evolving is scientifically feasible? Or does evolving always move from lesser life-forms to more complex life-forms?
Speaking of empirical evidence, the overwhelming reality of our human world is entropy: Our world tends to decline and decay from order into disorder. Whereas Evolution asserts the opposite: that simplicity and disorder will evolve to complexity and order. The notion that any creature can evolve from a simple form to complex form, flies in the face of the empirical facticity of entropy — gradual decline into disorder and decay (for example, what do we learn from the empirical facts of cemeteries and rest homes?).
Ironically the idea that a Creator is responsible for the existence of Creations receives mocking skepticism from atheist-evolutionists. At the theoretical level, the Creationist Ontology is more logical because it offers explanations for Justice and Purpose. Empirically speaking there are thousands of documented instances of people dying, and then coming alive again; where these people went during "death" is consistently described.
George Ritchie's book "Return from Tomorrow" gives evidence to the Creation Ontology. And if not, then George Ritchie, a licensed clinical psychologist, must be delusional -- along with a thousands of others who report similar "death" experiences.
Intelligent discussion about two competing ontologies, Creationism and Evolutionism, is NOT to bring up "religion," instead, it faces the most basic of philosophical questions: Where did I come from? Why do I exist? Why are people violent? These questions lead to an Ontological Exploration, that need not be religious.
The fact that human beings can choose to be violent is one of the realities that causes some people to be Athiest. Consider these words by dead comedian, George Carlin:
From the book, "the Quotable Atheist," here are the words of DEAD comedian and atheist, George Carlin:
"When it come to believing in God, I really, really tried, . . . but the more you look around, the more you realize something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, the Ice Capades. . . . This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed."
Because the truths of God are "spiritually discerned," George Carlin never came to understand why God created a world where human beings have the ability and freedom to choose good or evil. One reason, among others, is this: The choice to do GOOD is only possible when juxtaposed against the opposite alternative of choosing EVIL.
The most compelling proof of God's existence is this: God talks! Whenever I talk to God (prayer) and ask Him a question, He eventually talks back. His clear and convincing communications to me number in the thousands. Thus, I have experienced something available to George Carlin, but was never chosen by George, even though he claimed to have "really tried." And that was his problem: He needed to Do and not Try. Because God is no respecter of persons, he would have spoken to George Carlin the same way He speaks to me.
Biblical history records a pattern of violence that appears over and over again; a violence that is mainly motivated by the acquisition of power and property. This is proven over and over again in the Bible as Kings are constantly vulnerable to violent attack from opponents seeking to take over the throne.
While the Bible chronicles many instances of violent contention and wars, the Bible more specifically addresses the issue of Anger — why people get angry and Gospel remedies to escape from Anger. The reasons why people are violent are essentially the same reason why they get angry.
The Natural Emotion of the Natural Man
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever
Some people believe that anger is a normal and natural emotion, and should be expressed on occasion; this is the teaching of some therapists and counselors who encourage the release of anger as something that is healthy, . . . it's called catharsis: "Go ahead, get angry, . . . you'll feel better if you do." Some who propagate the practice of catharsis argue that anger is a "neutral" emotion, and as such, to express one's anger is not morally wrong.
This erroneous idea comes from the fact that the "heighten physiology" associated with anger IS indeed neutral (see page 126, CYS). An increase in heart rate and respiration due to a release of adrenaline in the body is neither morally right or wrong when separated from the holistic context of angry emotions.
But bodily stirrings do not happen in a vacuum; physiological feelings never occur outside of the whole unified expression of body, mind, spirit, and action. Bodily stirrings are instigated in the first place by some interpretive perception of mind; and all perceptions are fundamentally determined by the spiritual integrity of the person doing the perceiving: The way we see the world is inseparable from the way we are being in the world, . . . whether being true or being false.
Violence begins with Anger, and Anger begins with some variation of Egocentric Offense-Taking. Here's the Truth about Taking Offense:
"Certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean spirited things
Concerning the choice to turn Offense-Taking into Anger, the perspective expressed in the book, New Mood Therapy, hits the nail on the head:
It's natural to believe that external events upset you. When you're mad at someone,
Just as we do not see well in a dimly lit room, we also perceive poorly as we walk in spiritual darkness. When we see through darkened eyes, it is directly because we have failed to walk in Spiritual Light.
Famous Indian holy man, Black Elk, said, "It is in the darkness of their eyes that men get lost." As applied to angry emotions, I add this: "It is in the darkness of their hearts that men get angry."
The scriptures advise against anger:
"Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:
In contemporary times, others have echoed this scriptural theme:
"Never suffer anger to arise in your bosom; for, if you do, you may be overcome by evil."
"The moment a man or woman becomes angry, they show a great weakness."
"Anger that leads a man … to condemn his brother is crime."
You may be wondering . . . if anger is "a great weakness" and should be "put away," then why is "anger" attributed to God in the scriptures?"
In some instances, this apparent contradiction is created by the defects of human language, where one word can have more than one meaning. To communicate with his children, Heavenly Father must necessarily speak using imperfect words: "Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."
The word "anger" comes from the Old Norse word "angr" meaning . . . "affliction" or "sorrow." The words "anguish" and "angina" originate from the same root as "anger."
Anguish = A very great physical pain; great suffering or distress.
The obsolete definition of anger as "affliction or sorrow" is an appropriate meaning applied to the following New Testament verse, that attributes "anger" to the Savior:
". . . and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. . . . And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand . . . and his hand was restored whole as the other" (Mark 3:1-5).
It is commonly assumed that Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple in anger, but there is no mention of "anger" in the Biblical account (Matt. 21:12-13). We improperly project anger upon Jesus, because that's how an imperfect mortal would have behaved; and thus we tend to project our imperfect definitions of the word "anger" when used in reference to God, generally.
From an article entitled "The Case Against Anger," Burton C. Kelly defines the sin of anger by three consistent components:
1) It is an emotion that is initially stirred by unrighteous judgment.
Because God never judges unrighteously, His judgments are always perfect; and God is never selfishly motivated, His actions are ever guided by love; and God never engages in the exercise of control, dominion, or compulsion (D&C 121:37); therefore, the word "anger" holds an entirely different meaning as the scriptures attribute that emotion to God—who is perfect in patience and compassion.
It is improper to apply man's common meaning of "anger" to describe a God that is perfected in all positive virtues; in contrast, anger as expressed in unrighteous judgment, selfishness, and attempts to control is clearly a betrayal of Truth. Kelly concludes that "anger occurs as a result of sin" . . . "anger itself is a sin" . . . and "anger causes further sin."
Because of pride and vanity, many people resist repenting of angry reactions. The more common response is to be self-excusing and accusing, with those providing the provocation being blamed: "If you hadn't have done that . . . then I wouldn't have gotten angry." We rationalize: "Anger is a natural and normal emotion, . . . anyone would have responded similarly."
The original and obsolete meaning of "angr," as "sorrow," . . . is an appropriate facet of Godly anger. Further, because God IS the Creator of heaven, earth, and all humanity, . . . it is solely His prerogative to give and take life, and to measure out "recompense" (Jeremiah 25:13-15) according to His perfect Justice and Judgments, . . . His infinite Mercy and Love.
It is improper to attribute to a perfect God . . . the imperfect expressions of mortal anger; an emotional outburst that attempts to control, is selfish, and judges unrighteously.
No more Coping: A Cure for Anger
Psychology's general approach to anger is thus: Because anger is normal and natural, people can never completely rid themselves of it—all they can ever do is try to CONTROL it and COPE with it.
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ there is a complete cure for angry emotions. One no longer needs techniques to COPE with an unavoidable anger that is assumed to be "natural" for all humanity; instead, through Christ there is a perfect brightness of HOPE that "all bitterness, and wrath, and anger" can be "put away" from us. Because the Lord gives no commandment save He prepares a way to accomplish it (1 Nephi 3:7), we know that anger can be repented of, and eliminated from our lives.
Only a mind that is beset with a Migraine Mental Block (explained on p. 176, CYS) will imagine that eliminating anger is impossible, and it IS impossible for the "natural man." The complete elimination of anger from our lives is governed by a very simple principle taught by the Savior:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
A parallel teaching is given in the Book of Mormon.
Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift. For behold, a bitter fountain cannot bring forth good water; neither can a good fountain bring forth bitter water; wherefore, a man being a servant of the devil cannot follow Christ; and if he follow Christ he cannot be a servant of the devil.
The Apostle James ties these two analogies together:
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh."
The sin of anger is evil fruit that grows on corrupt trees. Because "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), we all have given into angry emotions that are judgmental, selfish, or controlling.
But the fruits of anger cannot grow and neither can they flow, as we repent of our sins and are purified through His precious blood. As it is written, evil fruit and bitter water "cannot" grow or flow, as we are "good"—through Christ we can become pure fountains from which freely flow the gentle expressions of loving emotions.
Matt Moody, Ph.D.
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