Religious thinkers, though generally optimistic about the human condition, are quick to acknowledge our flaws. In fact, they would agree that the best we can do in our current situation is to embrace our flaws and to use them as keys toward better understanding ourselves: who we are, what our place in the cosmic order is, and what our relationship is to the higher powers in the universe. Many of these troubling facets of human existence are of course unavoidable and irreparable—our mortality, for instance. But we can focus on the more remediable flaws in the human condition so as to be more truthful about our position in the world while also serving to promote the sense of hope and empowerment that is so necessary to our existential needs and well-being.
"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."
“Man was truly created anxious: he is fretful when misfortune touches him, but tight-fisted when good fortune comes his way.”
“The child when born is far from being perfect. It is not only helpless, but actually is imperfect, and even is naturally inclined towards evil. He should be trained, his natural inclinations harmonized, adjusted and controlled, and if necessary suppressed or regulated, so as to ensure his healthy physical and moral development.”
“In man there are two natures; his spiritual or higher nature and his material or lower nature. In one he approaches God, in the other he lives for the world alone. Signs of both these natures are to be found in men. In his material aspect he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcome of his lower nature. The attributes of his Divine nature are shown forth in love, mercy, kindness, truth and justice, one and all being expressions of his higher nature. Every good habit, every noble quality belongs to man’s spiritual nature, whereas all his imperfections and sinful actions are born of his material nature. If a man’s Divine nature dominates his human nature, we have a saint. Man has the power both to do good and to do evil; if his power for good predominates and his inclinations to do wrong are conquered, then man in truth may be called a saint. But if, on the contrary, he rejects the things of God and allows his evil passions to conquer him, then he is no better than a mere animal.”
“The human desire to transcend the limitations of the physical is a completely natural one. To journey from the boundary-based individual body to the boundless source of creation— this is the very basis of the spiritual process."
“[T]he One caused himself to fall into two pieces; ‘cause to fall’ is in Sanskrit pat. The one caused himself to fall into two pieces, a husband and a wife, which, in Sanskrit, is pati and patni. A husband and a wife were born. Thus, this part of creation involved, literally, a Fall. Interestingly, there is another world view that speaks of creation as Fall. That view is different. But it is meaningful that both views—may be there are others?—boil down to the Fall. Was there no way, in the beginning or beginnings, except for the agency of the Fall? Which suggests that human existence began with separation, tearing and rending apart, cleavage, mutilation, and severance. The roots of human existence are in a sundering. Even if it is a little tinkering with the ribs, the memory of the sense of hurt and pain are perhaps enduring and all-pervading."
“So even though you have some difficulty in your practice, even though you have some waves while you are sitting, those waves themselves will help you. So you should not be bothered by your mind. You should rather be grateful for the weeds, because eventually they will enrich your practice. If you have some experience of how the weeds in your mind change into mental nourishment, your practice will make remarkable progress. You will feel the progress. You will feel how they change into self-nourishment. Of course it is not so difficult to give some philosophical or psychological interpretation of our practice, but that is not enough. We must have the actual experience of how our weeds change into nourishment."
“Chuang Tzu launches into[…]attacks on the way in which the people’s true innate nature has been lost and broken. He pictures a perfect world when all were equal and none had any sense of being greater or lesser. They just followed their innate nature. He then depicts the fall from this age of primal, innate, natural living.”
“The Master said, ‘It is these things that cause me concern: failure to cultivate virtue, failure to go more deeply into what I have learned, inability, when I am told what is right, to move to where it is, and inability to reform myself when I have defects.’”
“The Master said, ‘Not to mend one's ways when one has erred is to err indeed.’"
“All schools agree that man, before his philosophical conversion, is in a state of unhappy disquiet. Consumed by worries, torn by passions, he does not live a genuine life, nor is he truly himself. All schools also agree that man can be delivered from this state. He can accede to genuine life, improve himself, transform himself, and attain a state of perfection. It is precisely for this that spiritual exercises are intended. Their goal is a kind of self formation, or paideia, which is to teach us to live, not in conformity with human prejudices and social conventions - for social life is itself a product of the passions—but in conformity with the nature of man, which is none other than reason. Each in its own way, all schools believed in the freedom of the will, thanks to which man has the possibility to modify, improve, and realize himself.”