Posts tagged “addiction

Generation Adderall

The first time I saw William Glasser in person was at a school improvement conference in Vancouver, Washington, in, as I recall, the fall of 1994. The Evergreen School District, just up the road from where I was school principal in Salem, Oregon, had sponsored the event and invited area-wide teachers to attend. I felt the $100 fee for the two-day event was a bargain and paid for all of my teachers to join me in checking Glasser out in person.

It turned out to be an important event for us as a staff, since the conference contributed to our understanding of control theory (it didn’t become choice theory until two years later) and ultimately toward our taking tangible steps toward becoming a quality school. Besides attending Glasser’s keynote lectures I was also able to attend Diane Gossen’s two-day workshop on Restitution, which became a life-changing set of beliefs for me as a school administrator. I wouldn’t learn until mid-1999 that Glasser would eventually have a problem with Restitution, nor could I have imagined that I would soon become involved with doing research on the formation of Glasser’s beliefs and with becoming his biographer. But I digresss . . .

Glasser on a stool, his water beside him, giving a talk in Ventura (c. 2006)

Glasser on a stool, his water beside him, giving a talk in Ventura (c. 2006)

As I read a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, I was reminded of one of those keynote lectures that Glasser gave over 20 years ago in Vancouver. Sticking to his classic presentation format – a chair or stool, a microphone, and a table with a pitcher of water and a glass on it – Glasser had the audience fully attending to what he was saying. Always able to connect with educators in a special way, he was speaking their language and touching on themes they wanted to know more about. At one point he began talking about the need for school campuses to be drug-free, a belief that his audience seemed to share. As he continued talking on this topic, though, it became clear that he wasn’t just talking about illegal drugs like marijuana, but was in fact also talking about prescription drugs like Ritalin and Adderall. I can still see in my memory banks the row of eight or nine Special Education specialists that took him to task for the position he was taking on brain drugs. They felt such drugs were essential to the successful life of the children with whom they worked. I can also recall the way in which he gently, but firmly, didn’t back down.

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The article in the New York Times Magazine is titled Generation Adderall and is an important read that has been written from a personal perspective. Although brutally honest, the article isn’t preachy. That not being preachy part is an important element that needs to be present for me to be able to recommend it to you. Click on the picture below to access the article.

Click on picture to access the Generation Adderall article.

Click on picture to access the Generation Adderall article. You can also click on the link below.

Generation Adderall

Stories have a special appeal, and the article’s author, Casey Schwartz, is simply telling her story. It is true that with her addiction to Adderall she became a data point in what has become a sea of them in this country. Whether having to do with the percentage of children on brain drugs (I’ve read that something over 20% of 4th and 5th grade boys are now on a brain drug in the US) or the percentage of adults now addicted to pain medications, the numbers are staggering. Casey’s story, though, plus many other articles I am now seeing on a regular basis, calls into question society’s headlong rush toward pills as a solution.

Looking back on my time in the Evergreen School District amphitheater as Glasser patiently called into question a school’s support for brain drugs, I see now that he wanted to prevent the Casey’s of the world from having a difficult Adderall story to share in the first place. Addiction traps us, and even enslaves us. Choice theory is about freedom – freedom from dependence on things like drugs, whether licit or illicit, in our search to be happy and at peace.

addiction is about the spirit’s imprisonment in the flesh

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Glasser said a lot that is easy to understand and readily accept. We sometimes forget, though, that he said a number of powerful statements that clearly swim against public opinion. He believed and wrote, for instance, that mental illness, as defined by his field, does not exist. He believed that although desperate to do so, neither psychiatry nor the drug companies had proven a biological connection to symptomatic psychological behavior. And he believed that brain drugs, while capable of affecting the creativity of the brain, did not address such symptoms in a helpful way.

Taking on psychiatry and the drug companies was not his key goal, although he wouldn’t back down when challenged in these areas. I viewed him as much more focused on the good fight of mental health, rather than on the bad fight of mental illness. He wrote more strongly about brain drugs and the drug companies in his 2003 book, Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health. I dedicated a chapter of his biography to the themes he covered in Warning and I would encourage you to re-read the chapter for a good re-fresher.

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It isn’t often that I write about brain drugs (I’m not an expert), but when I do I want to capture the spirit in which Glasser spoke about them. That being there was no part of him that wanted to criticize someone for taking a brain drug; instead, he wanted to encourage a person with the possibility that they were not biologically diseased, and that they didn’t require help from a drug. He wanted them to consider that their symptoms just might be the result of months or years of deep unhappiness, and that choice theory could teach them how to be happier and more satisfied with their lives.

I ended the Warning chapter in the biography with the following –

During our interviews a couple of years after the Warning book was published, when he was already on to the next project, the idea that mental health was a public health issue rather than a medical problem, I asked him about his “moving on” from the emphasis in the book. The Warning title seemed to sound the battle cry for a full-on, prolonged assault on the psychopharmacology system, yet apparently he had discovered significance in another approach. Thinking out loud to me, almost in a tone that suggested let’s move on, he explained, “I’m damning psychiatry as much as I’m gonna damn it. I’m saying they diagnose diseases that don’t exist, they give drugs that can harm you, and they tell you that you can’t help yourself. That’s about as good as I can do.”

Ultimately, Casey Schwartz discovered she could help herself. This is the preventive foundation I want teachers and schools to be a part of sharing with students. For me, the idea that people can learn to psychologically help themselves is one of Glasser’s most important contributions.

 

 

 

Solitary Pleasure and Mental Health?

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The words solitary pleasure and mental health would not seem to go together, yet a case can be made for just that. The August 12 post at mentalhealthandhappiness.com describes how people need to cultivate a solitary pleasure as a way to nurture a relationship with themselves. This is interesting and important on several levels.

When I was a young man I remember hearing that you had to be a me before you could become a we. I took that to mean that it’s important to establish your own identity and to be strong within yourself before you attempt to meld your life with a significant other. Even as we connect with others socially and even if we are in a relationship with a significant other, though, there is something very solitary about the human condition. Mental health seems to require an inner personal strength that is comfortable with solitude. Me before We also conveys the importance of learning how to be fulfilled and secure within yourself, rather than being dependent on another person fixing your insecurity.

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Another way in which solitary pleasure can be healthy is described in Positive Addiction (1976), where Glasser described how people can be “addicted” to an activity that is actually good for them. After visiting with and surveying runners, he concluded that if certain conditions were met, the act of running could bring the runner into a special mental state where contentment, confidence, and creativity flourished. The runners admitted that if they could run with ease for around an hour, and if the element of competition was not present, they would experience a kind of runner’s “high” that strengthened them and seemed to prepare them to meet their responsibilities even more effectively. They also admitted that when they didn’t run for awhile they began to feel less healthy – physically and emotionally – and wanted to get their running shoes on and get back on the road. Glasser noted that other activities besides running could lead to this Positive Addiction (PA) state as long as the conditions were met. The key is that rather than detracting from our life forces and literally imprisoning us, like negative addictions do, a positive addiction adds strength and creativity to our lives.

And so there is a kind of solitary that is healthy. As humans we need to be able to handle, and even tap into the benefits of solitude. That being said, though, let’s remember that not every kind of solitary is good for us. Choice theory points out the importance of relationships in our lives, and how so much of our emotional distress is created when a relationship suffers. Our mental health, to a great degree, is tied to the quality connections we have with others. So what’s the difference between a healthy solitary and an unhealthy solitary? For me the answer boils down to: Is my solitary a way to escape or is it a way to empower?

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The story is told of a man that went out to the wood pile to cut wood, and how at first he cut the wood quickly and made great progress. He had a lot of wood to cut and he was pleased at how easy it was. As the days went by, though, he seemed to cut less wood in the same amount of time. Rather than getting stronger and cutting even more wood, he was cutting less. It got to the point where he seemed unable to get the saw through the wood at all. Discouragement and frustration became his companions as he went out to the wood pile each day to wrestle with the few pieces he could now handle. When a friend stopped by to visit and noticed how slow he was now cutting the wood, the friend suggested that he ought to sharpen the saw. Indeed, the saw was sharpened and the experience became doable and efficient once again.

We each need to be aware of the ways in which our “saws” are sharpened. It could be meditation or morning devotions, prayer, cycling, walking, knitting, gardening, or hitting golf balls. If life is marked by difficulty and drudgery, it may be that our saw is dull and that we are trying to cut the same amount of wood with it. Caring for ourselves is not a selfish act. Ultimately, we can care for others and do our jobs even better when our “saws” are sharpened. When solitary activities empower us to face our responsibilities and connect with others in the process, they are healthy and needful.

One of the important benefits of “sharpening the saw” activities and healthy solitude is becoming more aware of and accepting of ourselves. As the mentalhealthandhappiness.com post suggested, we need to develop and nurture a healthy relationship within ourself and learn how to meet our own needs in the process.

So, in review –

Me before We

Positive instead of negative addiction

Empowerment rather than escape

Keep that saw sharp

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14 Amazon reviews; can we make it 20?

14 Amazon reviews; can we make it 20?

For U.S. customers, get a signed copy of Champion of Choice for $20 + $6 (shipping). Send your check, along with any special instructions (e.g.- if the book is a gift), as well as your shipping address, and I will get the biography out to you right away.
Please include your email address, just in case I have questions about your order. My address is P. O. Box 933, Angwin, CA 94508

Get a signed copy of Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Teachers for $17.

Amazon reviews would be helpful here, too.

Amazon reviews would be helpful here, too.

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You can access The Better Plan posts on –

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@thebetterplan

It’s OK, as long as I am not harming others. Right?

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Any pleasure that does no harm to other people is to be valued.   Bertrand Russell

This statement caused me to immediately pause and consider the extent to which it is true. Since choice theory is in my quality world, the statement was filtered through my concepts of choice theory. How about you? Is Russell’s view accurate?

Unlike most psychiatrists of his day, Glasser did see importance in moral behavior, although his definition of moral is significant. To him, moral behavior occurred when a person met his own needs without keeping someone else from meeting theirs. He frequently referred to the Golden Rule in the Bible as a good maxim by which to live.

If we stopped here, Glasser would probably support Russell’s statement about personal pleasure. However, Glasser didn’t stop with just his definition of moral. He went on to describe the difference between pleasure and happiness, at least as he came to define them.

He came to see happiness as a key human need and goal. He viewed the terms happiness, choice theory, and mental health, as synonyms. He felt that it could be said that “mental health is choice theory is happiness.” Happiness comes from being close and knowing how to stay close to the important people in our lives; it comes from engaging in activities that add strength to our lives; and recognizing our basic needs and our power to make choices, more and more we come closer to being in self-control. Happiness has much to do with our relationships with other people.

Glasser came to see pleasure as something people pursued to temporarily change a feeling. His concept of total behavior has feeling as one of the back tires on the total behavior car, a part of our behavior that we cannot directly control.

Total Behavior Car

The concept of total behavior reminds us that our mental health and happiness depends on our ability to choose to live in the realm of the front tires – that being our thinking and our acting. Our feelings can be very strong, though, even what “feels” like overwhelming. Many people attempt to address the feeling, rather than staying on the front tires. A desire to feel good, or at least to not feel bad, can lead to many behaviors. Some seemingly innocuous ways we attempt to feel good or numb our pain include eating, shopping, traveling, watching movies, and playing video games; less innocuous ways of feeling good include alcohol, various drugs, sex, including pornography, and gambling. The ways in which we attempt to feel good are in fact the ways in which we self-medicate. Self-medicating behaviors do not address the root of our unhappiness; they just attempt to change a feeling, even for just a little while. This self-medicating pursuit of pleasure leads to two things – 1) you need to up the dose of whatever your medication of choice is, and 2) addiction. Rather than coming into a place of greater personal strength, we arrive at feeling powerless in the presence of our “pleasure.” And rather than bringing us closer to others, especially the important people in our lives, our pursuit of pleasure erodes our personal connections.

This is such a dark picture, yet it captures a process in which we might find ourselves.

This is such a dark picture, yet it captures a process in which we might find ourselves.

This additional definition of pleasure vs. happiness adds an important element to how we might process Russell’s statement. Now, when we read . . .

Any pleasure that does no harm to other people is to be valued.

. . . we realize that pleasure that does no harm to others may still be harming me. And it brings up a really important question – Is it possible to be in the process of harming myself and not, ultimately, to be harming my relationship with the important people in my life?

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The Glasser International Conference is coming up next week in Toronto, Canada, and I am looking forward to seeing all of you who  are a part of that. For me, it will be a bit of a homecoming, as I began my teaching career in 1978 in Oshawa, Ontario, just 1/2 hour from Toronto.

GREAT DREAM – Acronym for Happiness

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A recent survey of 5,000 people asked them to identify the everyday habits that make them happier. Here are the 10 habits, along with the average rating, on a scale of 1-10, that indicate how often the participants performed each habit.

1. GIVING: do things for others – 7.41

2. RELATING: connect with people – 7.36

3. EXERCISING: take care of your body – 5.88

4. APPRECIATING: notice the world around you – 6.57

5. TRYING OUT: keep learning new things – 6.26

6. DIRECTION: have goals to look forward to – 6.08

7. RESILIENCE: find ways to bounce back – 6.33

8. EMOTION: take a positive approach – 6.74

9. ACCEPTANCE: be comfortable with who you are – 5.56

10. MEANING: be part of something bigger – 6.38

The first letter of each habit spells out GREAT DREAM, which sounds like a good thing, although choosing to engage in any of these habits has been scientifically proven to improve our happiness level. These habits aren’t just a dream, they work.

It is quickly pretty plain that choice theory is embedded throughout this list of habits. Each of them involves a choice, either in the course we set for ourselves as an individual or as a way we respond to setbacks and difficult circumstances.

Glasser felt that happiness is an essential indicator of mental health. In fact, he equated three terms as inextricably linked – choice theory, mental health, and happiness. When you talk about one of these, he felt you were basically talking about the other two at the same time as well.

He also felt it is important to differentiate between happiness and pleasure, with happiness involving something that adds strength to our lives and that often brings us closer to other people, while pleasure involves things that temporarily feel good, but that ultimately weakens us and that threatens or harms our relationships with others.

We all have been designed to desire true happiness, although we too often settle for pleasure instead. The GREAT DREAM list is a good reminder of the tangible decisions we can make that will help us experience real happiness, rather than being addicted to chasing short-term pleasure.

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Classroom Application:
+ Define and discuss the idea of true happiness or real happiness.
+ Develop an age-appropriate survey, maybe similar to the GREAT DREAM list of activities, on which your students can indicate the things they do that brings them happiness.
+ Process the responses and discuss the results. (The responses can be processed as a part of Math class; the results can be discussed as a part of Health class, Social Studies, or even Bible class.)
+ As appropriate, have students consider the difference between happiness and pleasure.
+ Help students explore the role of choice in achieving personal happiness.

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The Glasser biography has officially gone to the printer. Hopefully, an announcement will be forthcoming soon regarding how to order copies of the book.

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Our next Choice Theory Study Group is this coming weekend – March 15.

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For more info on the GREAT DREAM survey, go to the PSY BLOG website at –

http://www.spring.org.uk/2014/03/10-simple-habits-proven-to-make-you-happier.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PsychologyBlog+%28PsyBlog%29

We Want to Feel GOOD, Pt. 4

The Good and the Bad

You’d think that feeling good was good for you, but alas, that isn’t always the case. You’d think that the quality world is, in fact, about quality, however again, that may not be so.

I started drinking in ninth grade. My friends were doing it and it was a way to feel like I was a part of the group. I was a bit shy and quieter than the others, but I came out of my shell after a few drinks. Kind of without realizing it I came to depend on alcohol for feeling normal, at least I viewed it as feeling normal. I was an alcoholic by the time I should have been entering college.    Mark

Every human being wants his/her unique set of personal needs to be met. Choice theory explains that when we discover someone or something that is need-satisfying, we place a specific picture of that person or thing or idea or activity in our quality world. As much as possible we want the real world around us to match these pictures in our head. This description of the quality world may sound acceptable and even appropriate, however there is a catch. The catch is this — the quality world is good at storing the need-satisfying pictures that will ultimately guide our lives, but it is not necessarily a good judge of quality. Put simply, it is an amoral storage center.

When I  get home from work after a long day of managing employees and dealing with unhappy customers, I am more than ready for some comfort. Even though I never get home before 6:00 PM, part of my evening ritual includes eating a lot of food that isn’t that good for me. I haven’t even been on this job for a year, yet I am starting to deal with some serious health challenges, not the least of which is a significant weight increase.  Marla

The quality world doesn’t decide what’s good for us. Instead, it identifies the people and things that satisfy one or more of our needs. I have thought about referring to it as the MNM world, which stands for My Needs Met, but the monicker lacks a certain ring. In any case, we put people, things, and behaviors we value, for whatever reason, into our quality world.

I just started high school. My family moved across the country over the summer and everything is new to me. Things still feel unsettled, boxes still to unpack, a community to get to know, and new people to meet. I miss close friends from my old school. My parents seem aware of what I am going through and check in with me every day to see how I am doing. Instead of resenting what some kids would call nosiness, I appreciate my parents interest. I like knowing they’re available if I need them.  Jake

Mark placed alcohol into his quality world. He felt it helped him belong to the group and feel more confident. Instead of really helping him, though, it turned into an addiction that he wrestled with for years. Marla valued food and television in the evening after a day at work. These things didn’t serve her well in the long run, but she very much wanted them every evening when she got home. Jake’s parents are in his quality world, which is great. Apparently, they have stayed connected to Jake without trying to control him. Being there to help without forcing it has led Jake to want their advice. These scenarios are small examples of how Mark, Marla, and Jake are living through their quality worlds.

We decide what pictures go into our quality world. As you can tell, these pictures set the course of our life. It is hard to overstate the significance of these pictures. Fortunately, we can also take pictures out of our quality world. Taking a picture out, especially the picture of someone we love, is not easy, but it can be done. Ultimately, our quality world pictures represent what we want in life.

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The phrase – We Want to Feel Good – sounds simple enough, straight-forward, yet it represents a process that is deeper than first meets the eye. We, all of us, every person on the planet is striving to feel good, to feel, as much as possible, like we are in control, even if its only a little bit of control, even if it is merely feeding an addiction. We have a great deal to do with creating an all we want world. In fact, we have very specific pictures of how we want the world around us to look and feel. Speaking of feeling — remember that feelings are the gauge of how we monitor the events in our lives. For some, the feeling mechanism takes on more significance than it deserves, which creates imbalance and unhappiness. We want to feel good, but good doesn’t always mean good. We just want to feel that our needs are being met and sometimes we come up with unhealthy ways to do that.

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Encourage a friend or colleague to check out  http://thebetterplan.org

Dagnabit! Pt. 2

Besides the deadly habits derailing our New Year’s resolutions, something else to consider is the strength of the behavior with which we are dealing. Wanting to eat differently is a common New Year’s goal, and on the surface that goal seems simple enough, but our eating habits often revolve around much deeper issues in our lives than simply taking food and swallowing it. Behaviors can become forms of self-medication. We want to feel good and over time we discover behaviors that satisfy our needs. We don’t refer to certain kinds of food as comfort food for nothing.

Some self-medicating behaviors, like gambling or use of illicit drugs, are inherently destructive, while many others, like shopping or eating or even sex, are not necessarily bad in themselves, yet they can become destructive as we give them more power than they deserve. Self-medicating is by nature an addictive process, a complex process that involves nature, nurture, and choice factors. Engaging in a particular activity, or even thinking about the activity, bathes our brain cells in a way that results in either pleasure or a at least a release from the pain.

The power of addictive behaviors can be incredibly strong, leading us to do things that leave us incredulous at our own weakness and disgusted with our self-imprisonment. A book that compassionately, yet firmly and candidly describes the comprehensive and compelling power of addiction, especially drug and alcohol addiction, is titled In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts (2010), by Gabor Mate. Describing the lives of drug addicts in Vancouver, British Columbia, Mate persuasively explains why the current war on drugs does nothing to curb the addict’s drive for a fleeting moment of satisfaction. The book also makes a case for all addictions basically being the same. Whether we are a hardcore drug addict or a housewife desperate to do some online shopping, addiction is addiction. Behaviors that weaken us and lessen our ability to have control over our lives are negative addictions. It is possible, though, according to William Glasser, for certain habits (e.g.- exercising, devotional meditations, creative hobbies, etc.) to add strength and self-control to our lives, to literally be positive addictions. For more on Glasser’s views check out Positive Addiction, which was published in 1976.

At a New Year’s Eve gathering we got to talking about New Year’s resolutions and a friend shared that he had heard that as of June each calendar year, that of the people who had made resolutions, 40% of them were still keeping their new commitment. I felt that number was way high, but I do agree that a percentage of us are able to make and keep behavior change commitments. For some of us we know that we aren’t exercising enough and we start exercising; for some of us we know that we are eating to much sugar and we cut back; and for some of us we know that we’re spending too much time playing video games and we stop. For others of us, though, it isn’t that simple. Some of us are in a battle for our lives.

If a behavior has become a self-medicating behavior, then we need to acknowledge and respect it for what it has become. We made choices that invited that behavior into our lives. It felt right or important enough at the moment. And we have repeatedly affirmed that choice, sometimes for many years. The behavior has become a “friend” that we can count on. True, this “friend” is a bully and cares nothing for our real happiness. But we prefer a terrible friend we can count on over other options that seem out of our reach. If this kind of self-medicating behavior has become a part of your life, be aware that a simple resolution sometime around the end of December or beginning of January isn’t going to cut it. The cause of the challenge lies deeper than a New Year’s promise can affect.

Self-medicating, addictive behaviors can be dealt with! There is most definitely hope! To begin to gain the victory over behavior that weaken and trap, I recommend the following:
1) Take an honest personal inventory and admit the largeness of your addiction. Recognize that the behavior has become a thief of your power and your joy.
2) Bring your inventory to the Holy Spirit, admit your inability to effectively deal with the behavior, and seek His cleansing and strengthening might. He is anxious to share His insight and muscle with you.
3) Begin to learn about how our brains actually work. Seek to understand the source of your own motivation. For me, choice theory offered the best explanation of human psychology and provided details into how God created us a free will beings. (My goal is to write a follow-up book to Soul Shapers that will describe choice theory, along with how it shows up in our lives.)

Just remember that real change, lasting change occurs from the inside-out, and that not even pressure we afflict on ourselves from the outside-in, also known as the deadly habits, will make a positive difference. I am so glad that Romans 8:1, 2 comes right after Romans 7:18-25.

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.* I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power* within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 7:18 – 8:2.

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