It is generally agreed by most people today that a person’s personality is made up out of some combination of innate qualities and environmental influences. From a Christian perspective, we understand that man is made in the image of God, and yet that image is believed to be a fallen one. How much man has retained of the image of God cannot be ascertained, but we do seem to have a limited ability to possess some of God’s own attributes. We can love, though our love is not uniquely unconditional as is God’s love for mankind. We have the capacity for compassion for our fellowman, we have the ability to make choices that affect ourselves and our fellowman, the knowledge of good and evil to make those choices real, and finally we have the perseverance to overcome the choices that we and others make. We believe that God is compassionate, is knowledgeable, makes decisions and is longsuffering toward mankind, also. Though we believe, as well, that God is also just and will judge us ultimately by the choices that we make in our lifetime.
We, as Christians, believe that mankind has a fallen image, or self, that cannot be restored fully in this life. Mankind seems to have an evil disposition, one of selfishness that is believed by most Christians to have begun in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve coveted the knowledge of good and evil in order to become like God. This innate selfishness is ingrained in the personality of man, and only when man learns love for God and love for others can he truly be free from this innate evil. But even when man is freed from the bondage of selfishness, its strong pull on the personality lingers. Rarely can one find the total unselfishness to live for others that Christ Jesus exampled for us. Even when we do good things, our motives are contaminated by our own desires for self-worship and other-worship.
Mankind’s struggle for balance in the personality between the unselfish image of God within him and the selfish reflection of Satan, who was the first to covet God’s likeness, has been an ongoing battle of spiritual warfare since the fall of man in Genesis. The innate image of God, which is the spirit of man, is at war with the environmental effects of evil, the presence of Satanic influences in the world. Only through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, can man overcome the world. The Scripture says that in the world we will have troubles, but to take heart, because He has overcome the world. When we put our faith in Him, we can overcome the self-serving, self-centered world of evil.
God’s image in man (the nature element) or Satan’s influence on him (the nurture element) can influence many components of man’s personality. The elements of our mental processes such as love, compassion, knowledge, wisdom(our ability to use knowledge for good), cunning(our ability to use knowledge for evil), and even our sexuality, which is for the most part a mental process, and which God created for good but man has perverted for evil, can all be influenced for good or for evil. When our cognitive processes are focused on God in us, rather than on ourselves in the world, then we allow God’s spirit to control us rather than our own selfishness, which is easily influenced by our environment.
If we focus instead on our environment, we tend to see what we personally lack, rather than what we have, just as Adam and Eve did. They claimed the right to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, disregarding the limits that God had put on them. They ignored the beautiful garden God had freely given them to enjoy, while taking the fruit of knowledge without the consent of the Giver of all good things. When they crossed God’s original boundaries for mankind, and mankind’s selfish unconcern for His authority was revealed, the consequences for man’s sin entered the world. The evil influence of Satanic forces, along with the consequences of suffering man brings on himself by his own impulsive selfishness defines the boundaries of God’s image in mankind.
We have the capacity and potential for much of God’s image to reflect in our personalities, but if we focus continually on ourselves and what our environment seems to deny us, then God’s image is squelched in our souls. Without this spiritual stimulus then man is more susceptible to the presence of evil within his environment, which in turn limits God’s presence in our lives, for God will not abide in the presence of evil. He chooses to limit His association with those who are inclined toward evil continually, though for those who are repentant He makes concessions.
When we do not seek God, nor seek to maintain His image within ourselves, then God necessarily gives us over to our reprobate minds. Only when we repent of the evil we choose to let rule over us, will God’s Spirit abide in our spirit. When man’s locus of control is inwardly self-driven but God-controlled, his personality will reflect a secure confidence in God’s love for him with a lack of selfishness and the need to do for others within the limits he has defined for himself and that God has defined for him, as well. When man’s locus of control is externally motivated by his world rather than by God, then he will generally reflect an innate selfishness and self-defeating attitude that often results in disrespect and blame for others, without accepting responsibility for his own failures.
Our thankfulness to God for his goodness, rather than our covetousness for what does not rightfully belong to us, is the litmus test of our personality. If we are generally optimistic and grateful to God then we reflect more of His image in ourselves. If we are more often pessimistic seeing only what we seem to lack and lean toward the selfish desire of attaining those things, then we reflect the image of Satan. Greed and covetousness are characteristic of Satan’s influence in the lives of mankind. These dominant personality traits in mankind divide the sheep from the wolves in God’s Kingdom.