Doin’ What Comes Naturally

As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the impostor and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. ~ Brennan Manning

A friend was describing how her reaction to a recent difficult encounter had made the entire situation so much worse for her. She went on to say: I was just doing what I’ve always done. It’s natural to go back to the familiar.

That’s true isn’t it? It’s true even if what we’ve always done hasn’t gone terribly well. When we’re overly stressed or tired or hurt or fearful, we tend to fall back on our reflexive, familiar responses. We’re just doing what come naturally.

There are those who think we’re all born sweet and lovely and would remain that way if the harshness of the world didn’t assault and alter us. You have to wonder if those folks have spent any time in a nursery or with a room full of 2-year-olds.

I’m not interested in making an argument for a fallen nature, although I do think we have one. I can tell you, with a great degree of certainty, about my own nature. I can’t remember the last time that doing what comes naturally in a difficult situation was my wisest response.

As a matter of fact, my natural reactions are often my guage for what not to do. What comes naturally for me in conflict is to pull in. What comes naturally for me when faced with very difficult decisions is to avoid making any at all. What comes naturally for me when I’m in pain is to pretend like I’m not hurting.

I’ve had to give up doing what comes naturally, realizing my natural nature is impoverished and broken. Some days I still want to cling to my need to be right, relish in my martyrdom, or lick my wounds. I take heart in the reminder that whenever I’m willing, God is willing to supply the grace for me to step out of my brokenness and do the unnatural: love others more than myself.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

35 thoughts on “Doin’ What Comes Naturally”

  1. So true. It seems impossible not to be ‘me’ no matter how stupid it is sometimes. Sometimes you just have to forgive yourself and laugh – you can learn some stuff in life, but you can never learn not to be yourself really.

    1. dear but you ARE beautiful – very, very true.
      My goal is to be who I was designed to be, not just to fall back into the easy patterns of relating and coping that hurt more than help!
      Thanks for stopping by! πŸ˜€
      ~Debbie

  2. Great goin’, here, lady!
    I always thought if I could manage to pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances, I could lick the other guy inside. I just do better with a goal, a plan, a different tack, creating a new habit to eliminate the old one.
    If only I could just get that done!

    1. Hello katharine! It’s become a ‘gut check’ of sorts for me. Some of my natural reactions are good and appropriate. But in other circumstances, for example interpersonal conflict, which I’ve always tried to avoid, my natural inclinations are counterproductive. I learned very young, not to engage in conflict. It’s an explanation, but it certainly isn’t a solution. πŸ˜‰
      ~ Debbie

  3. Debbie, thanks for the “doin’ what comes naturally” phrase and thoughts. That phrase as a “lookout point” is a great way to help us both know ourselves better and see where we have more growing up to do. And of course, I love your choice of the Brennan Manning quote. You keep us thinking!

    1. Hello Paulann – I’ve been in the land of no internet so I’m far behind in my reading and writing. As Chaz said, we can, to some extent, reprogram the natural, but the deep embers still burn. I love Brennan’s naked vulnerability – few dare it!
      ~ Debbie

  4. Oh what a precious baby grandson, gracious one. Praying for the blessing of you getting to see him soon and hold him and kiss him.
    This made me think of Paul’s “I do what I don’t want to do, and what I want to do, I don’t do”. ( paraphrase ) And also that description of crazy that says it’s to expect different results by doing the same thing. I’ve seen God give me opportunity after opportunity to fall back into His arms instead of my natural response. It makes me sad to see how often I keep needing another chance, but He is a faithful teacher. πŸ™‚ And then the shock of seeing the difference when I do it His way! Beautiful motivation to trust Him again and again.
    God bless you as you love others today, and He loves you.
    love you too! the other deb

    1. Dear Deb – I thought of that same quote: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein
      That’s a pretty good prediction of where doin’ what comes naturally, leads me. πŸ˜‰
      ~ Debbie

  5. Hi Debbie… crazy timing but I had a fallback-position experience tonight just a couple hours ago.

    My step son, a teenager, great kid, has some mild special needs that cause him to manifest anger from time to time. He said some hurtful things to his Mom and me, then made some hostile gestures toward me physically. Just jestures mind you… he was just acting a little “gansta”.

    Where did my mind go? Immediately to “respond in kind” and “hit him with both barrels of belittling talk to bring him back down to size”. Thank God I didn’t though. But my mind certainly went there almost immediately.

    Heidi mentioned in her post … ‘pause when agitated’. This, thankfully was where I went. I bit my lip for a moment, then jumpped in with lighlty more calm and compassionate reason. The kid afterall is legitimately hurting over an issue so I came back with a brief but stern message that gestures suggesting violence would not be tolerated in our home, and that I understood what pain was like and would stop at nothing to help him with the pain of the underlying issue.

    Thank God for years of recovery work that did manage to code in some newer, redeemed thinking. I could actually be an asset in the cirucmstance, not a bucket of gas on the fire.

    My point though is that the flicker of the dimming ember of my old ways was still a faint flicker. Which tells me I still have more work to do.

    1. Chaz – What a perfect example of not falling into the fire of your fallback position! It may be that we all have a few embers that never quite go out. But we can do what you did, and not choose to fan them back to life! Thanks so much for sharing real stories.
      ~ Debbie

  6. Great post as usual! Thanks for sharing.
    If only we could put the familiar self in the closet and close door permanently! The bad things anyway! Better yet, surrender it all to Jesus, and stop picking it back up!

    1. Greg – You’re so right. It’s a little like taking out the garbage at night and then bringing it back inside in the morning. All day long you smell it, so you take it back out again, and then…
      Do you know the hymn, I Surrender All? I love that old hymn. Its a beautiful song to sing, but oh so much harder to live the lyrics!
      ~ Debbie

  7. As Chaz says…ugly is my fallback position. Choosing new responses is rewarding.

    Sometimes choosing NOT to respond is the best option. “Pause when agitated”.

    1. “Pause when agitated”–Oh boy, a direct word from the Lord for me! Excellent! I’m not into tattoos, but maybe I should rethink–‘course, if it was on my forehead, I would rarely see it. Well, I think I’ll just type it in BIG Font and tape it to my computer–where much of my knee-jerking seems to occur lately…ai yai yai

      Thanks so much to Heidi, and also Chaz, today– I got way more than I expected for the matinee ticket price!

      God bless all of you.

      1. Caddo – They are brilliant, aren’t they! The great joy for me in this blog is that I say so little, and others with so much wisdom, share so much. Thank you for being one of the wise, tender hearts here.
        ~ Debbie

  8. HI Debbie… Great post….I have observed the same thing. I refer to it as our “Fallback Position”. When squeezed, we often fallback to our most trusted (subconsciously) coping mechanism(s). Typically something we have programmed in deep from a young age and/or years of repetition. Basically, we practiced it to perfection.

    I have observed this in myself. A trait that I tend to fall back on is trying to outsmart people and situations. I used to be prideful about this ability. It often involves firing biting sarcasm or mockery at someone. Ugly, I know.

    In my experience, we can re-program ourselves with repetition. Over and over, choosing new ways to respond when life squeezes us. We get better with practice. So when life sqeezes us now, we can think of it happily as we are getting an opprotunity to practice and develop our new skills that will give us a better life.

    1. Chaz – Great point! I do think, with prayer and practice, we can develop a new ‘fallback position’ that is healthy and loving. When we get uncomfortable enough in the ‘ugly’, we start craving the good. Sometimes it takes a good deal of squeezing though, doesn’t it?
      ~ Debbie

  9. Debbie, this is incredibly good–a most pertinent message for me today, thank you so much! “Impoverished and broken”–I think I spend an awful lot of energy, spinning my wheels, trying to fool myself–and others–into believing this is not my condition, factually, when the evidence reminds me otherwise, and frequently. All those “knee-jerk” natural reactions–woe is me, when I don’t reach for HIM! God bless you BIG today!

    (PS: on the “color scheme” decision making you’ve left up to me? We might want to take turns there–otherwise I’m likely to make frequent changes on a whim!)

    1. Dear Caddo – I’m good with whims – no problem!
      I’ve managed to substitute acid production for knee-jerking reactions. I hope Tums really is a good source of calcium. πŸ˜‰
      ~ Debbie

      1. Oh Dear Sister!! I SO look to you for great teachings, lessons, examples–but acid production???? That sounds terrible, even if it does spare the “innocent”–yeah, I’ve heard about the calcium connection. Maybe I could just practice biting my lip, instead–not quite as painful as my tongue, but might be equally effective, eh?

        Okay, we’re good on whims–if I send you a Christmas gift, do you prefer the pastel colored Tums, or white mint ones? I’ll mail them wrapped in a BIG Hug, either way. God bless you today–Your silly sister who loves you bunches!

      2. Dear Whimsical Caddo – Avoiding conflict by withdrawing has been a life long pattern. Like Chaz, the embers still glow, but I’m learning not to fan them until the fire starts (in my case, in my belly!) πŸ˜‰
        I hope to be off Tums by Christmas, but thank you, dear heart!
        ~ Debbie

  10. Another great post. Thank God that old man sin nature in us is dead. We can still fall back into old familiar reactions, I do more than I want to admit. Thanks again.

    1. Hello Steven! I have an old pair of shoes that are so comfortable, but if I wear them very long, my back starts to hurt. Still, occasionally, I opt for the comfort all the while knowing it will lead to pain later.
      Thanks for being here, Steven.
      ~ Debbie

  11. Love this. I love the quote. Why do we think we have to be as good as God? Who wants that job. :-).

    Man oh Manischwewitz (sp) i battle with trying to stay the “f” out of my head! Thinking with your heart and thinking of others first is a discipline for me! We are all so freakin’ selfish! But, again, we’re not God … but we could shoot for something similar, right? xoxoox m

    1. dear m – It’s a tough road when your heart has been so often hurt. I think we begin to think that if we don’t guard it, who will, right?
      In truth, only God is trustworthy enough to guard a heart – even our own.
      Peace to you in your battles,
      ~Debbie

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