Inhibitions—Good or Bad?
WHAT are inhibitions? The term is used to designate a wide variety of things. As most commonly used, an inhibition is an inner force, an idea, habit or attitude that restrains one’s free expression. An inhibition is also said to be a reluctance to act contrary to one’s principles.
Today the sophisticated, the worldly wise, consider those who have inhibitions in the form of moral restraints to be old-fashioned. Many youths appear to be without any inhibitions. ‘Live! Let yourself go!’ is their philosophy. So, by their dress and appearance, by their profane and obscene speech and by their resorting to all manner of violence they demonstrate their lack of inhibitions.
To be sure, not all inhibitions are good; some are based on ignorance, superstition, religious myths and falsehoods. These doubtless are in large part responsible for the throwing overboard of all inhibitions by so many persons.
And there is also such a thing as being overly inhibited in certain matters. Those persons who are, shrink from giving spontaneous expression to wholesome and natural feelings, sentiments and impulses, which, if expressed, would be a blessing to others as well as to themselves. For example, a person may be afraid to comment at all at a Christian meeting for fear of saying something wrong. This might be due to a sensitive, introverted disposition or even to an overestimate of oneself.
Inhibitions do not exist among animals. They simply follow their natural impulses or instincts. Why is it so different with humankind? Why do humans need inhibitions?
Answers that leave God and creation out of consideration can be but guesses to questions like these. The Bible, on the other hand, gives us an answer that completely satisfies mind and heart. It shows that man alone was created in God’s image, with reason and with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. In the beginning the possibility of living forever was held out to man if he obeyed God’s law. To disobey was to forfeit life.—Gen. 1:26-28; 2:16, 17.
Our first parents chose to disobey. They followed a selfish course and so reaped the penalty of imperfection, sin and death. (Gen. 3:1-19) Thereby they brought sin and death not only upon themselves but also to their offspring, even as the Bible tells us: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin.” (Rom. 5:12) As a result “the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.”—Gen. 8:21.
We must, therefore, avoid whatever tends to weaken our inhibitions against doing what is bad. What would tend to weaken them a scientific journal (Scientific American) once noted: “Drinking two or three ounces of whiskey, depresses the uppermost level of the brain—the center of inhibitions, restraint and judgment. At this stage the drinker . . . takes personal and social liberties as the impulse prompts . . . Such a man has undergone an obvious blunting of self-criticism.” (Italics added.) And if that is true about excess use of alcohol, what about abusing one’s body and mind with other drugs? The results of this are often a diseased body, a wrecked mind, sexual frustration, perversion and even suicide.
Among other things that can weaken one’s proper inhibitions are reading pornographic literature and viewing lewd entertainment. How so? Because familiarity with such things sears the conscience. Having bad companions can have the same effect. “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
On the other hand, proper built-in restraints, one’s inhibitions against doing that which is wrong, are really for one’s own good. They give confidence and poise. A person is not stunted emotionally because he is not a fornicator or an adulterer. Rather, he gains genuine respect for the opposite sex. The fornicator or adulterer, lacking inhibitions, is the one that is all mixed up. Likewise it is the one who can exercise restraint in the use of liquor that is truly wise. It keeps him from fights, insults, sloppiness and general disrespect for self and for others, not to say anything about the end-of-the-road alcoholism. Yes, inhibitions, thus viewed, serve to make ladies and gentlemen and respectful, wholesome youths.—Prov. 23:26-35.
Among the things that will strengthen our inhibitions is the “fear of Jehovah,” that is, the fear to displease him, the fear to arouse his anger. Thus we read: “The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad. Self-exaltation and pride and the bad way and the perverse mouth I have hated.”—Prov. 8:13.
To help us further to do what is right, to inhibit these tendencies toward badness, the Creator has given us aids, such as the two great commandments: ‘Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; love your neighbor as yourself.’ To love our neighbors as ourselves means to do to them as we would have them do to us.—Mark 12:29-31; Luke 6:31.
To increase our love for God and neighbor and reinforce our fear of displeasing God, we must take time from the busy course of life to read and study the Bible and literature that helps us to understand it. Helpful also is our associating at Christian meetings with others who live by Bible principles. Such association provides for an interchange of encouragement, resulting in strengthening our faith as well as our inhibitions based on Bible principles. And not to be overlooked is prayer, talking to God, looking to him for guidance and strength.—Rom. 1:11, 12; 12:12.
Inhibitions? Some are good and some are bad. Happy and wise are we if we suppress the bad and strengthen the inhibitions that are good!