I was talking with a friend the other day about the "natural man" and what the term means to me. The concept was taught by a king in Ancient America who explained that “the natural man is an enemy to God”.
In my opinion, the “natural man” exists inside everyone to varying degrees. The “natural man” tendencies often present themselves as our first innate reaction to situations that occur in daily life. I believe the overarching challenge we’re all presented with in life is to overcome these “natural man” tendencies and change ourselves in such a way that we don’t respond as a “natural man”. Instead we become Godlike individuals who can control completely our own reaction (including our thoughts) in any situation and learn to love others unconditionally.
Some “natural man” tendencies include greed, selfishness, withholding deserved praise from others, “looking out for number one”, lust, anger, passive aggressive behavior, the desire to control others, idleness, being consumed with our outward appearance, conditional love, etc. The list could go on and on, but typically the "natural man" tendencies seem to result from attempting to satisfy our own needs without regard to the needs of those around us.
The Book of Mormon illustrates a story of an entire people in ancient America who were able to put aside their “natural man” tendencies and learn to control their actions in a Godlike manner. These people were originally an idle people who believed that whatever they did was right in the sight of God—including murder. Surely this bloodthirsty people, able to murder without a second thought, were likewise guilty of succumbing to all of the “natural man” tendencies listed above and many more.
Remarkably however, upon their conversion to Christianity, these people recognized the need to eliminate these “natural man” tendencies and made covenants with God to do so. At the close of their story, we are told that they had distinguished themselves from the other Christians because of their “zeal toward God, and also towards men; for they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; and they were firm in the faith of Christ…and they did look upon shedding the blood of their brethren with the greatest abhorrence…” Many in fact gave their lives because they refused to arm themselves even when their families were attacked by their enemies.
As this example illustrates, it is possible to exercise the faith necessary to put “off the natural man” and gain complete control over our thoughts and actions in all situations. Doing so requires a change of heart. The power to make these changes has been made available to each of us through the Atonement of Christ.