I’ve heard too many stories lately of people who’ve known better but did it anyway. He knew better than to cheat on his wife, but he did anyway. She knew better than to tell that lie, but she did anyway.
I’ve also come across a number of people who knew they should do something but didn’t. She knew if she exercised, she would begin losing weight, but she didn’t. He knew if he read his Bible every day he would grow spiritually, but he didn’t.
And then the fingers come pointing back to me. Why did I do that, think that, say that, when I knew better? And why did I not follow through when I said I would?
The Apostle Paul shares my struggle, which is perhaps yours as well, when he wrote, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). Paul went on to say that he desired to do what was right, but he didn’t have the ability to carry it out (Romans 7:18).
A team of neurologists, led by Dr. Antonio Damasio, conducted some fascinating research on why we struggle with following through on what we know to be right. They studied patients with damage to a small but critical part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which lies right behind the nose.
According to the research, when this part of the brain is damaged, knowledge alone is not sufficient to alter one’s behavior. One of the researchers, Dr. Antoine Bechara, said the deficiency is seen in drug addicts. “Addicts can articulate very well the consequences of their behavior. But they fail to act accordingly. . . Damage in the ventromedial area of the brain causes a disconnect between what you know and what you do” (Blink, 60).
Why do we struggle with connecting what we know with what we do? Because we live in a fallen and broken world, and we are fallen and broken as well (Romans 3:10). Whether our synapses aren't snapping or our convictions aren't convincing or our upbringing was down-spiraling, we, like Paul and the rest of humanity, are broken.
Awareness of brokenness does not excuse the disconnect between knowing and doing, but it helps us identify it and surrender it. We give it to the lordship of Jesus, and we open ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit who CAN give us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 7:25). As Augustine once wrote, “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.”
We are more than conquerors, and we can connect what we know to be true with how we live truth, but not in our own power. Only when we acknowledge our weakness can we receive His strength, for His “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We know a better way, so let’s live it . . . in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).