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Attibuting motive

I’m getting afraid to teach you these things because some of you are learning very quickly how to catch me in them… You know who you are! ; )

But here goes a new one anyway, because I too grow from you catching me:

Every now and then I ‘call people out’ on what I call “attributing motive.”

Eve and Adam, in partaking of the forbidden fruit, put themselves in the place of the Highest Power or of God in their own lives. They usurped, as we say, God’s place. The temptation was: “when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5) and they bit the bait.

Since then the world has been a mess. We call it a “dis-ordered Creation” or the result of the Fall of humankind into sin. The disorder continues, and even worsens from time to time, in proportion to how willingly people keep the Creator-God of the Bible at the center of their life or not.

You and I are descendants of Eve and Adam, following in their ways. One way I have found myself and others to be doing exactly what our original parents did is in presuming I know EXACTLY why someone else did what they did. I call that “Attributing Motive.” It is really — besides being rather haughty and arrogant — a form of the original sin. It puts me in the God seat over your life, knowing good and evil about you.

To some degree we do need to guess people’s motives or intentions in order to survive. When the car in front of you slows down near a crossroad, but there is no signal blinking, it is helpful to guess they intend to turn off. When, as a non-rural person, a car in front of you on a rural road pulls into the oncoming lane with the left turn signal on, but is clearly not passing, it is good to guess they are giving you space to go by as they turn into their laneway and they are not drunk. There are many such situations where doing some guessing of the intentions and motives of another keep us all safer and saner.

But, there are times, such as when someone is trapped in a Victim Mentality, or trapped in arrogance that isolates, or is in some other way selfishly-self-centered, when they seem to need to be able to say to themselves and others exactly why someone did what they did. If we are fearful, we easily see others as ‘out to get us.’ If we are competitive, we attribute competitive motives to everyone around us. And so on.

In reality, we are truly only guessing or theorizing when we describe the motives of others to our own hearts or to others. And when we get locked in to seeing a particular person as having only one set of (negative) motives, we don’t give ourselves room to be pleasantly surprised when they are trying to change. We keep them in a box of attributed motives, and it is very hard to break out.

Only God reads the true motives of our hearts. Really, I barely know my own motives most of the time. Which is why it is helpful to regularly turn those motives over to God’s will. Leave it to God.

  1. Proverbs 16:2
    All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
  2. 1 Corinthians 4:5
    Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

So, watch out for when you are unnecessarily attributing motives, such as when you see all I do as your STM as ‘out to get’ or ‘out to change’ or ‘out to humiliate Nobleford Christian Reformed Church.’ The motives you suspect I have might speak more about who you are, and might just be wrong.

And yet, there are times when my motives are fallen and do get in the way. Then, I do appreciate a conversation about how you experienced what I did and how it may have puzzled you, and the motives you began to wonder about. But that conversation is to be had with me, not others.

Pastor Pete

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