Why Are We the Way We Are? by Fr Yanni
The question crosses our minds often, sometimes in the singular form, of why am I this way? Sometimes, in the plural form, speaking on behalf of all humanity. Most likely we mean many different things, and we ask this question in response to all sorts of prompts. Depending on who is asking, and how they feel about themselves and the world around them we come up with all types of answers.
Our Orthodox Christian faith has profound insight as well as the tools to truly begin looking into this question with some seriousness. I propose that this question arises out of struggle, internal or external. We tend to ask this question out of frustration or displeasure, perhaps out of genuine interest to know ourselves more deeply, a desire to be free from the shackles, whether perceived or real, of our own sinfulness and or shortcomings.
The elusive answers come within the process of repentance, confession, and trans- formation. As we begin to delve deeper into a relationship with the person of Christ in the context of confession and the sacramental life of the Church, we discover, or more accurately, we are gifted small moments of clarity. We begin to realize that who we claim to be is not who we always are in actuality. We begin to realize that we are striving to be something or someone always, and depending our target and the effort put in, we become something other than what we were, and at the very same time, we are still ourselves.
In today’s society we associate “our thoughts”, as something having their origin and creation within us. And we are oftentimes surprised by the variety of thought that crosses our minds, and oftentimes we consider ourselves to be terrible people. We wonder why we are haunted by certain ways of thinking, and we begin to project things on ourselves and also on society.
The short and long answer in orthodox tradition is that the thoughts floating around in our head, do not have their origin in us per say, but rather that they come from what we experience in the world through our senses. Our thought pattern develops as a result of both our nature and nurture, in more psychological language, but the particular specifics of thought pattern is quite interesting when we are able to disassociate our thoughts from ourselves, and see them more so as patterns that form based on our current life situations and past experiences.