What Kind of Person Do You Want to Be?
THE chief of police in a town in the Philippines asked a pioneer, “What did you do to get that man to change his conduct?” Pointing to the stack of papers on his desk, he added: “Did you know that all of these are records of past judicial cases against him? You have relieved us of one of our headaches in this town.” The man in question had been a drunken brawler who constantly caused trouble. What moved him to make tremendous changes in his life? It was the inspired message of God’s Word, the Bible.
Many individuals have taken to heart the apostle Paul’s counsel to ‘put away the old personality which conformed to their former course of conduct and put on the new personality created according to God’s will.’ (Eph. 4:22-24) Whether the changes we need to make are big or small, putting on the new personality is part of embracing Christianity.
Our making changes and progressing to the point of qualifying for baptism, though, is only a beginning. When presenting ourselves for water immersion, we are much like a piece of wood that has been carved into a basic shape. The object is identifiable, but much work remains to be done. The carver still needs to add the finer details in order to make the object beautiful. At the time of baptism, we have the basic qualities required to be a servant of God. However, our new personality is still in its early stage. We must continue to enhance it by making adjustments.
Even Paul saw the need to make improvements. He admitted: “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me.” (Rom. 7:21) Paul was certainly aware of what he himself was and what he wished to be. What about us? We too need to ask ourselves: ‘What is present with me? What kind of person am I? And what kind of person do I want to become?’
What Is “Present With Me”?
When we renovate an old house, it is not enough to paint the outside if there are rotten beams inside. Ignoring structural defects would only invite trouble later. Similarly, a veneer of uprightness is not enough. We must get to the core of our personality and recognize problems that need to be solved. Otherwise, old personality traits are bound to resurface. Self-scrutiny, then, is a must. (2 Cor. 13:5) We need to identify undesirable traits and correct them. To that end, Jehovah has provided us with help.
Paul wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) The message of God’s written Word, the Bible, can have a powerful influence on our lives. It pierces deep down within us—figuratively to the marrow in the innermost part of the bones. It reveals our thoughts and motives, exposing what we really are inside as compared to what we appear to be on the outside or what we think we are. What help God’s Word is in enabling us to recognize our problems!
When we repair an old house, it may not be enough to replace the damaged materials. Knowing the cause of the defects helps us to take measures that will prevent the recurrence of problems. Likewise, not only identifying our negative traits but also isolating what has caused or contributed to them can help us keep our weaknesses under control. Numerous factors go into shaping our personality. Among them are our social status and our economic situation, our environment, our culture, our parents, our associates, and our religious background. Even the television programs and movies we watch, as well as other forms of entertainment, leave their mark. Recognizing things that exercise negative influences on our personality places us in a better position to minimize their effect.
After a self-examination, we may be inclined to say, ‘That is just the way I am.’ This is faulty reasoning. Referring to those in the congregation in Corinth who had been fornicators, homosexuals, drunkards, and the like, Paul said: “That is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean . . . with the spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11) With the help of Jehovah’s holy spirit, we too can succeed in making necessary changes.
Consider the case of a man named Marcos, * who lives in the Philippines. Commenting on his background, Marcos said: “My parents were always arguing. That is why I rebelled at the age of 19.” Marcos became notorious for gambling, thievery, and holdups. He and some others were even going to hijack an airplane, although the plan did not materialize. Marcos’ bad practices continued after he got married. He eventually lost everything he had to gambling. Shortly thereafter, Marcos joined his wife in a Bible study that Jehovah’s Witnesses were conducting with her. At first, he felt unworthy of becoming a Witness. However, applying what he was learning and attending meetings helped Marcos to abandon his former ways. He is now a baptized Christian who regularly shares in teaching others how they too can change.
What Do You Want to Be?
What changes may we need to make in order to enhance our Christian qualities? Paul counsels Christians: “Put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices.” The apostle continues: “Clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.”—Col. 3:8-10.
Our primary goal, then, is to put away the old personality and put on the new. Cultivating what qualities will help us to that end? Paul says: “Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” (Col. 3:12-14) Putting forth conscientious effort to cultivate these qualities will help us to be “more likable both from Jehovah’s standpoint and from that of men.” (1 Sam. 2:26) When on earth, Jesus outstandingly displayed godly qualities. By studying and imitating his example, we can become more Christlike as “imitators of God.”—Eph. 5:1, 2.
Another way to discern what changes we may need to make is by studying the personality traits of Bible characters, considering what was attractive about them and what was not. For example, think of Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob. Despite experiencing injustices, Joseph maintained a positive spirit and an inner beauty. (Gen. 45:1-15) On the other hand, King David’s son Absalom feigned great concern for the people and was praised for his beauty. In reality, however, he was a traitor and a murderer. (2 Sam. 13:28, 29; 14:25; 15:1-12) Mock goodness and physical attractiveness do not make one truly appealing.
We Can Succeed
To change for the better and be beautiful in God’s eyes, we need to give attention to the inner person. (1 Pet. 3:3, 4) Making changes in our personality calls for identifying our negative traits and the factors that cause or contribute to them, as well as cultivating godly qualities. Can we be confident that our efforts to make such improvements will meet with success?
Yes, with Jehovah’s help we can make needed changes. Like the psalmist, we can pray: “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one.” (Ps. 51:10) We can ask for God’s spirit to act within us, enhancing our desire to conform our lives more fully to his will. We can, indeed, succeed in becoming more attractive in Jehovah’s eyes!
^ par. 11 Not his real name.
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Would it be sufficient to paint the outside of this storm-battered house?
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Has your personality become Christlike?