Why assuming the worst about other people’s motives is so deadly – and how we can break the cycle.
Few things are as complicated, contentious or corruptible as our motives. French thinker Francois de la Rochefaucauld captured the reality of the human condition when he said, “We would frequently be ashamed of our good deeds if the world could see the motives that produced them.” Samuel Johnson summed up the heart of the problem even more succinctly: “Actions are visible, but motives are secret.”
The Bible is littered with warnings about our motives. When informing Samuel that David was his choice for King of Israel, God told him: “The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7) Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is spent warning his hearers against doing outwardly impressive acts with inwardly corrupt motives (Matt 6:1-18). And in Paul’s celebrated (but often misunderstood) chapter on love, 1 Corinthians 13, he tells us that even the best actions are worthless if done without love. Continue reading