Biology and the Soul

My two little dogs hate it when I trim their nails. As I hold Coco’s paw and bring the nail clippers closer and closer he will start wining and eventually act like he is going to bite my hand. He has never actually bitten me. He just pretends like he is. Why does he behave with such anger toward me when I am trying to do something that is for his benefit? Well he is scared. On an occasion in the past I actually clipped the nail to short causing pain and bleeding. So now he hates it any time I go to cut his nails. This type of fear conditioning is a physiological thing. His brain is wired this way in an attempt to protect him from potentially harmful things. His innate biology plus his experiences have wired his brain for this behavioral response.

Humans are not that much different. The part of the brain that stores memory is highly tied to the senses and emotions. Thus something that has caused pain in the past will cause the body to respond with fear, anxiety and maybe even anger. That response is not only an emotion, it triggers a whole cascade of physical response in the body affecting pretty much everything.

Recently at church I was talking to someone. We were having a good conversation. Then a question was asked along with a somewhat confrontational tone of voice and body posture. I instantly felt like all the blood drained from my head. I felt fear, and panic. My hands started shaking, my heart started beating faster, my vision became blurry, and I wanted to run somewhere to hide. This was followed by a certain amount of mistrust of the other person, and anger.

Why am I sharing this? Well my bodies physiological response is what it is. Due to my innate biology, experiences, etc it is how my body is programmed to respond. But at the same time as I am having this very strong physical response I still responded to the other person with love, kindness, gentleness and self-control. Why? Because the Holy Spirit showed me that although my internal physical response was very real that me acting and behaving in line with God’s Spirit is the part of following after Jesus.

Do I always respond this way? No, I have failed. I have had to repent for my lack of self control. I have come to terms with the fact that it is always better to flea the situation to give myself time to settle down than it is to respond in a negative way. Fleeing from temptation is also following after Jesus.

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