Behavioral cycles and identity

I briefly mentioned behavioral cycles in my previous post. I want to expand on that.

Behavioral cycles are basically self reinforcing patterns that imprint either good or bad into us. For example, a cycle of depression might look like this:

  • Environment: You are alone in your room
  • Perception: I’m alone all the time
  • Emotions: Nobody wants to be with me or nobody wants me
  • Behavior: Stay in your room alone more
  • Environment: You are alone in your room

As you can see, the reward for each of the various stages of a behavioral cycle is basically reinforcing the pattern that you’re alone by yourself, then you’re alone all the time, then nobody wants to be with you, which makes you feel like you need to be alone more, etc. Such a cycle leads to constant inforcement of behavior such that a depression may excessively worsen over time and may lead to thing such as suicide.

With that in mind, here’s the excerpt from the previous post that I mentioned.

The love of Jesus works through environment/experience when we love other people. When we change the environment/experience of someone, we show others the love of God (John 17) and it leads to different thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

The problem with a fear-based model is that it strikes at the heart of behavior instead of experience. Only those with sufficient humility and/or strong core Christian values will be able to see their behavior and correct it when rebuked. Most so-called Christian would rather never admit they’re wrong and disobey God.

This is why judgment of behavior (albeit often in an unkind manner) only serves to force others to double down on their folly.  This is why 1 Peter 3 is extremely wise in advice to wives with unbeliving husbands essentially saying to win your husbands without a word. This love through their behavior changes the environment. It is the environment which is affected in their husband’s life which starts to change his perception/beliefs and emotions/motivations and may bring them to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

It is important to realize that the primary way to bring about effective change in people is through environment/experience. Criticizing someone’s behavior, beliefs, or feelings is unlikely to make them even want to change.  This Scriptures speak to this fairly thoroughly, and this is why Christians are called to love one another and love their enemies.

It is primarily through your behavior, which changes the environment, that the love of the Father can be shown to those around you which He works through to induce changes.Ideally, as Christians we walk in enough love, kindness, and humility, that when we admonish or rebuke other Christians we can confront each other about our sins and that we need to repent. This is the ideal because the repentence is instant.However, for those that fail to pull down their own pride, it is only our behavior that will be able to show the love of the Father to others.

Looking at the bigger picture

Now, whether we all realize it or not we are constantly imprinted by behavioral environments on us from the time we were born all the way up until this moment.

Forasmuch as the old kids rhyme speaks that words never hurt us — sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me — it is completely false. As it says in James 3 the tongue is a deadly fire and a world of iniquity.

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a [a]stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in [b]what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our [c]life, and is set on fire by [d]hell. 7 For every [e]species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human [f]race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both [g]fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce [h]fresh.

I’m sure most of us can recall moments where we were bullied, called various names, insulted, revile, and the like. Maybe it was done to us by our parents, our siblings, or friends, and our relatives. Likewise, specifically for men it can be said that feminism in society, churchianity, and even our families is ubiquitous. Thus, men are constantly being torn down, called worthless, been told to do this and that, and been punching bags for whoever.

The constantly reinforcing environment eventually takes its toll and leads to beat down, down trodden men who are essentially worthless because that is what they believe:

  • Environment: tells men they are good for nothing.
  • Perception: men think they are good for nothing.
  • Emotions: ‘why should I even try I’m not good for anything.’
  • Behavior: only gives half effort or no effort in school, church, or other activities.
  • Environment: tells men they are good for nothing.

Such things start as small insults and jabs but are eventually self fulfilling prophecies as it is ingrained in their psyche. If society keeps proclaiming dads are deadbeats, then you will eventually get the majority of dads as deadbeats. The expectation is set. Humans tend to conform to them.

Identity background

If I were to pull out a root cause for the majority of what is wrong with society I would say it is fatherlessness. Wintery Knight has documented this (one, two, three, etc.) on many different occasions so I need not bring up any quotes. It would not be an exaggeration to say that a lack of identity in a child’s life gives rise to a whole host of dysfunction — poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, emotional and physical health, educational achievement, crime, sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, and the like.

J4G and FBNF also covered this recently.

The cause of this is multifaceted, but it has to do in large part to feminize and governmental involvement. Feminism brought about a societal wide shift in how sex and families are viewed, and the government disincentived marriage through no fault divorce. The courts simultaneously implemented incentives for divorce often drastically in the terms of division of assets and child support, and laws on poverty made entitlement programs able to support single motherhood.

In a culture such as ours, even those with fathers are affected. Since there are multple lines of dysfunction involved throughout society, it makes it more likely that all fathers are affected rather negatively or don’t want to be involved with their children as much in terms of working. My father was fairly emotionally distant and didn’t do that much in terms of teaching me about women. The church didnt want to talk about sex because it’s an uncomfortable topic, so men are left to fend for themselves.

On a large scale level, because of fatherlessness, absentee fathers, or distant/overbearing fathers all of us as children are affected by it. We seek to drown the needs that we have as children learning about the world by filling it up with things of the world. It’s no wonder outcomes such as poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, emotional and physical health, educational achievement, crime, sexual activity, teenage pregnancy, and the like increase when there is a lack of fatherlessness.

Identity with the Father

So why am I talking about identity? The concept I explored in the gospels is what is the primary way in how Jesus, the son of God, talks about God?

The primary way Jesus talks about God is that He is our Father. He could have talked about God in any other way… love, goodness, righteousness, justice, mercy, grace, humility, joy, peace, patience/endurance, self control, or any other of the ways that God is described. However, He chose Fatherhood as the primary attribute. Romans 6, 7 and the culmination in 8 addresses the Father’s adoption of Christians through Jesus’ blood as children of God.

From what I’ve explored over the past year within myself I think it’s the foundation that has been unaddressed in the Christian manosphere. I’m speaking this even as a long time Christian who hadn’t addressed such issues of childhood with the care that is needed in terms of connecting in such a way with God.

I’ve talked about the house analogy before:

  • Outside of the house is what appears to others.
  • Inside of the house is the values we cultivate.

However, what I think I’ve been missing on a fundamental level is the foundation of the house. The easiest analogy to make is the Jesus’ parable of the house on the rock and the sand:

Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and [o]acts on them, [p]may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the [q]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not [r]act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the [s]floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

By digging into why we process our core values as Christians as we do, and why we react to certain things the way we do we will be able to shift our paradigm from that of one of exploring ourselves in relationship to Father into exploring the Father in relations to ourselves.

What spurred my line of thought on this is the expansion of my post on a lack of joy and peace. In that article, I discussed the reason why often we don’t have a lack of joy and peace comes from our how we view ourselves… in other word identity.

We often say to women who become Christians that were formerly promiscuous that just because they are a new creation in Christ doesn’t mean the past has gone away. In this, we don’t mean that the blood of Christ hasn’t covered all sins. But it is our perception of ourselves that we continue to cling on to things in our past. We allow things to continue to shackle our soul and our mind.

[…] It’s often the case that as serious Christians we are our own worst critics. If I sin I know I have the grace of God. But I sometimes catch myself internally beating myself up because of that sin. “I should’ve known better” or “I should have been able to overcome this temptation” or “I’m weak.”

I know God has forgiven me but have I forgiven myself?

[…] Thus, deep down I know that if I am not experiencing peace or joy within my life there are chains that I have allowed to bind me where God has already broken them loose. We sit in those chains asking God why won’t He take them off, but He has already done so. Stand up out out of them and walk free.

If you put very careful thought into what I said in that article, you can understand that it was on the right track of thinking; however, it’s wrong in that there are a lot of things we still walk in as Christians where we don’t know the full measure of the grace and mercy of the Father.

The primary question that growing in the love of the Father is this… how do you love someone that is your enemy? Maybe even someone that claims to be a Christian but doesn’t read the Scriptures or blatantly ignores them?

When I look at a single mom how can I feel mercy and compassion for them rather than revulsion and judgment?

When I look at the brokenness of divorce on families, how can I see that both the divorced and the divorcee are both hurting and that both need the Father? Sure, one may shoulder more “blame” and “responsibility” but they are both in need of the Father. Christ died for both of them.

How can I stamp out any bitterness, anger, resentment, and the like out of myself and learn to love?

The goal is not to hate them or even yourself when you sin, but to help them turn back to the Father in their sin. To help them become the prodigal son, and eradicating the mindset of lies that still exist within ourselves as Christians.

My next post will be primarily focused on identity which will delve into more into processing behavioral cycles with the help of the Father to get out of them.

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26 Responses to Behavioral cycles and identity

  1. I have always been confused by the first part of James 3. I would love to hear more about being a teacher and its dangers.

  2. Robin Munn says:

    Minor correction: at one point (in the “Identity background” section) you talk about the problem of “a lack of fatherlessness”. I’m pretty sure you meant to write either “fatherlessness” or “a lack of fathers”. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Deep Strength |

  4. GlassDarkly says:

    Thanks for your blog, DeepStrength. It has been an extraordinary help for me.

    BTW, would you write an article on 1 Cor. 11 and hair length? I find your exegesis to be convicting and clear.

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