Jesus states that a person’s behavior is a natural outgrowth of the condition of his heart—that is, his inner self, his desires, his character—and is not merely a conditioned response to his environment. In other words, the responsibility for our actions resides with us, the decision makers, and not with our environment. We are empowered to choose our response to the stimuli of life. Jesus claims—a few centuries before anyone else—that each of us is, by nature, proactive. We are not simply the product of our environment and experiences. Rather, our environment is to some extent determined by the choices we make. For example, we choose who will be a part of our peer group, and we choose whether or not we will be a part of the church. Such choices affect our environment, which most certainly influence our destiny. Therefore we are the product, for the most part, of our own decisions. If we find that our behavior is fundamentally comprised of conditioned responses to external stimuli, then we have decided, either consciously or by failing to make a decision, to subject ourselves to those external conditions. We have chosen to be reactive by relinquishing our ability to choose our response. This is not to say that factors beyond our control have no role to play in developing our character. The sins of the father do affect the son. However, these stimuli play a lesser role, leaving the responsibility for what we do and who we become on our own shoulders. We cannot rightly blame others or fate or our circumstances for our inappropriate behavior. We should not shake our fist at Heaven and blame God for what we have done. Instead, we must take responsibility for the consequences of our decisions. In my own life, because I continually gave in to my desire to lust after women and to yearn for things that I could not have, I became like a slave to my desire. I could not find lasting contentment, and my relentless desire drove me ever farther from what I knew to be right and pure. Because I was self-focussed, critical and mistrustful, I became extremely sarcastic and insecure around people. Consequently, I had no deep friendships.
One corollary to this truth stated by Jesus is that changes in people occur from the inside out. It is only when we accept responsibility for who we are and what we have or have not done that we can make significant changes in our lives. If a leader accepts this truth it will dramatically affect how he interacts with others. The negative and hurtful behaviors in people’s lives arise out of the evil in their hearts. Admittedly, classical ‘‘behavior modification,’’ which does not deal directly with the ‘‘inner man’’ but only with external behaviors, can work. A conscious behavioral change can also change what lies deeper; that is to say, we can ‘‘act ourselves into a new way of feeling.’’ However, what I would refer to as ‘‘Christian behavior modification’’ involves helping people to acknowledge what they are really like deep down and then to deal with their inner self. With continued help from other people, an internal cleansing always produces an amazing external transformation. A leader who accepts Jesus’ teaching here can have great confidence that people are able to change if they are willing to deal with their hearts….