All people have the ability to make choices. God made this possible by giving us the gift of agency, which is “the quality of moving or of exerting power.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) The question is this — will people use this ability to choice in a way that leads to freedom and personal power, or will people let themselves be let captivity and sadness as a result of their choices?
We are subject to the consequences of these choices.
In his essay “Men Without Chests,” C.S Lewis said all men can either follow the voice of their body, which includes all emotions, cravings, desires, lusts and physical weaknesses, or men can follow the voice of their mind, including logic, or the voice of their heart (which is also referred to as someone’s will). The heart voice or will is a spiritual voice inside each of us. It is the strongest voice we have and has the greatest potential to be our flawless leader, but is not often socially acceptable to make choices based on this voice.
Lewis goes on to say that the battle of this life is a battle with ourselves, and that we must overcome the opposition to our will being imposed upon us by our body, or we will be in bondage and be left very unhappy.
In 1944, while Lewis was writing the aforementioned essay, he observed that the world was in danger of being taken over by men without chests, or men who don’t listen to their heart voices or properly exercise their wills. This danger still exists today.
We can learn a great deal about free agency when we examine the word “subject.” The noun version of the word is as defined by the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary as,“one that owes allegiance to a sovereign and is governed by his laws.” And the verb form of the word means “to submit; to make accountable.” Each of us, as subjects in this life, have a choice to make — we must either submit to our will/ logic/ heart voice, or we must choose to submit to the appetites of our bodies. No matter which way we choose, we will earn consequences, positive and negative.
When we practice self-government, we choose to subject ourselves to the voices that lead us to freedom, peace and restraint.The self-government procedure is completely natural. The definition of nature is “the works of God.”*
Affection means “a permanent bent of mind toward a particular object.” If a person has a natural affection, that means the person thinks about an object (or person) the way God would think of them. This would include a feeling of deep respect and acknowledgment of purpose. However, if a person has an unnatural affection, their perspective is warped, causing them to look at others in a way that God would not approve of, or in a way that would disrespect the nature of that person. People with unnatural affections usually have a habit of evaluating people for purposes of self gain. It is a selfish perspective.
Our society is plagued with unnatural affection. The obsession to follow the voice of the body is destroying relationships and the happiness of people and families. A person who puts his/her physical desires over his purpose and his will is doomed to frustration, negative consequences and an empty-feeling existence.
I Don’t Have A Choice?
It has become very fashionable to make excuses for laziness, hedonism, selfishness and the desire not to be subject to the voice of the heart. Excuses take on many forms, but one of the most common is, “that’s just the way I am.”
To suggest that a person is born in any way that makes it so that they don’t have a choice is to suggest that God’s natural laws and agency don’t exist. It is a faulty excuse. It may be true that some people may have more of a personal weakness or tendency to think of things in a certain way, but that physical limitation is never the end of the story. They are not bound by their weaknesses unless they choose to be. There are countless stories of every day heroes and heroines who transcend weakness to accomplish the impossible. These stories make the best movies and prove to all of us that we can conquer our weaknesses and focus on our strengths too. We can stop saying that we were born that way and start becoming the refined people were were meant to be.
When a person undertakes self-government, no matter if it is to beat a pornography addiction or to stop yelling at a particular family member, the person is attempting a full transformation of will and character. They are turning off the destructive voices of lust, desire and selfishness and are tuning into the voice of truth, the voice of the heart.
Subjugation is inevitable; we couldn’t have liberty without it. True liberty or agency can only come when we choose which voice we will follow. As we subject ourselves to this voice, as God intends, we will then be prepared to live our missions and meet the measure of our full potentials; we will be self-governed.
*Note: All definitions, unless otherwise specified, come from Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language
“Webster, Noah. Noah Webster’s First Edition of An American Dictionary of the English Language. Anaheim, CA: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1967. Print.”
For more on this topic listen to the audio class “Training The Heart” here.