One of the many things that I do in my life is try to manage our family’s investments, including my wife’s, mine, and my daughter’s ROTH accounts. Since these investments are weighted towards stocks, I tend to do a fair amount of reading in the investment field. One book I have recently been studying, Trading For A Living by Dr. Alexander Elder, has an interesting assertion on page twenty-five regarding self-sabotage. Elder says
After practicing psychiatry for many years, I became convinced that most failures in life are due to self-sabotage. We fail in our professional, personal, and business affairs not because of stupidity or imcompetence, but to fulfill an unconscious wish to fail.
Elder further says
We sabotage ourselves by acting like impiulsive children rather than intelligent adults. We cling to our self-defeating patterns even though they can be treated–failure is a curable disease.
As I have looked back over my life and the lives of many, if not most, of the people I have known I would have to agree with Dr. Elder–we are an enormously self-destructive lot. That also seems to go for Christians, who should do considerably better considering the resources they have at their disposal, both relational and spiritual.
Before I go on, let me explain that I am not a fan or supporter of the psychology profession (Dr. Elder is a psychiatrist not a psychologist but in this case he is using psychological categories of thinking), which I believe has become a form of religion all its own and has permeated our post-modern society to the extent that it is not a stretch to call Western culture now a theraputic culture, where everything is a disease of some form and a handy excuse for bad behavior. I think that the navel gazing of the sixties has become an era of personalities in search of a diagnosis to explain themselves to themselves and to the world around them, a new century repleat with mediacentric funnels like Opra and others helping the lost to find their way to approaching theraputic rebirth. Its the New Age taking root in the wannabe science of psychology to the point it now permeates and controls generalized thinking.
However, I also agree that we humans, as a whole (including Christians), are self-destructive. While psychology goes down endless rabbit trails seeking some root break in some formative period of life to explain the problem, the answer, at least from my perspective, is much simpler. It is sin. Please hold your outrage. I am not saying that people have not had some tragic or traumatic experience, but I would argue that most of those experiences are related in some way to someone’s sin (certain natural disasters and accidents not withstanding). I would also argue that our ability to deal with those negative weights in our lives is directly related to our ability to deal with sin, both in our own lives and in the lives of others.
Let me explain. Dr. Elder believes that self-destructive behavior, specifically in his case related to how you invest and trade stocks, is driven by our desire to punish ourselves for some past trauma or tragedy that we believe makes us unworthy. A lot of people agree with him, so many that self-esteem has become the talisman of our age and everyone at every level is in pursuit of it. While I can’t examine the depths of the issues surrounding self-esteem in this post, let me say that I believe the problem is sin and forgiveness, not self-esteem that most people struggle with.
Dr. Elder argues that while other forms of human endeavor have safety nets, systems and people who will warn you that your behavior is non-productive or self-distructive, the investment field, especially the stock trading arena, does not. As a result, this impulse to punish yourself is practically unchecked. Since failures can always be blamed on some external problem, something beyond your control, not your own bad decisions and poorly driven behavior, it is easy, he says, to continue in your destructive pattern right into insolvency. In essence, he argues, trading in the stock market exposes all your weaknesses, without giving you any supportive framework to deal with them. With that I wholeheartedly agree. As I look back over my financial and investing decisions over the last 10 years I see every weakness I have laid bare. It has been an instructive period of time. Like the angel in the book of Revelation says, “Let him who has an ear hear…”
So, thanks to Dr. Elder I have begun to use the lessons from my investment experience to inform my discussions with God about what I need to do to deal with within the plethera of my weaknesses, failures, and sin. Remember God deals with us one step at a time, never putting us in a position where we have to face more than we can handle at that moment. Paul assured us of that in 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
With that in mind I believe I can, with God’s help, deal with whatever Dr. Elder’s insights help me discover about myself. How about you?