We can’t see others’ motives, but we certainly respond out of our assumptions of them. We’re certain we can tell if someone is angry, irritated, frustrated, indifferent, or excited. Of course, we get clues from their behavior, but because we all have individual personalities, guessing motives can become a dangerous game.
To be honest, we can struggle to know our own motives. We can think (or rationalize) we’re responding out of pure concern for someone when we’re actually responding in jealousy or nosiness. We can think (or rationalize) we’re responding out of justified anger in a situation when we’re actually responding in unjustified retaliation or frustration to a person with whom we have an underlying, ongoing issue.
If our distorted views, preferences, and baggage can get in the way of the accuracy of our motive assessments, how can we get a better perspective, know ourselves better, and respond to people and situations in appropriate, authentic ways?
We need to see ourselves, including our motives, the way God sees us.
That means we have to invite God to challenge us and change us. It’s not an easy process, at least not for us. For him, it’s not difficult at all. He knows us. He created us. He fills us with himself, the Holy Spirit. But do we really yield fully to him? Not without intention.
I recently committed to a 30-day complaint fast. One of my friends asked if it meant I wasn’t receiving complaints. Not quite!
At first, God worked through the complaints I was verbalizing. I don’t consider myself much of a complainer, but my life is definitely not void of complaints. As soon as one would slip through my lips, I’d sigh. I asked several people to help me stay accountable, and they didn’t hesitate to do so. Plus, I tried to write down as many infractions as I could. Curbing my verbal complaints didn’t seem too uncomfortable. I began to think the fast wouldn’t be quite as difficult as I thought it might be.
As with any fast, the goal wasn’t just to abstain from something to show self-control. The point was to draw closer to God. Instead of focusing on a complaint, which usually indicates a space between myself and my expectations of something or space between myself and someone else, I turned my focus to the space between me and God. And as the fast continued, the space lessened…and I felt his presence with a fresh conviction. He moved from challenging my verbal complaints to my attitude of complaint. He connected what I wanted to say with the attitude that spurred it. He confronted me with some attitudes not consistent with his will. It became a bit more uncomfortable, but at the same time, I enjoyed learning about attitudes that could impact my relationships with God and others.
Then he took it a step deeper. He began to prune my heart. It’s not something I could rationally connect, as I could my attitudes and spoken words. I didn’t understand everything he was pruning from my heart, but when anything rooted in a complaint at all would begin to surface, I felt a spiritual tug. As I yielded to him, I trusted him to get rid of whatever it was that a complaint might be rooted within. I didn’t have to completely understand. I didn’t have to know the why or how; I was content to know the Who.
We can’t always know the why or how, but we can always know the Who.
We don’t need all the information. We don’t need to understand everything. When we think we do, we simply distort the reality and accuracy, such as in the case of our motives. When we know and trust God, we know enough. We need to actively and consistently yield to him so that he continues to reveal himself to us and prune and grow us.
It’s worth the “ouch.” God has pure motives.