Mind Your Motives — Part One
Change your mind, change your life
Why do you do what you do? What motivates us is an interesting question most people never answer. The first 33 years of my life, I lived unaware of the internal motives I operated with. I didn’t understand how they controlled my thoughts, words and actions.
Hit by a life-altering set of events 2001, I suddenly found myself on a path of self-discovery. As I began to peel back the layers of my internal onion, I learned who I am and why I respond to life as I do. With help, I started changing my actions and the motives behind them.
Before going any further, let’s define the word motive. A motive is “something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.”* A person’s TRUE motive is often hidden by an inaccurate emotion she attaches to a person, place, thing or event.
For example, when I’m scared, I get mad. Is anger an accurate emotion for a scared person? No, fear is. For years I couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Fear and anger felt the same to me. In reality, I wouldn’t even give fear time to manifest before heading it off with anger.
Subconsciously, it’s caused by the dilemma of my lack-of-power versus what I THINK I can control. My fear is real, yet I’m powerless over it. Anger provides the illusion of control. When I’m mad, I confrontationally interject my emotions verbally into a situation. When I’m afraid, I want to back away. It’s a simple concept, but a complex issue, one likely driving many of your daily actions.
Let’s consider a recent situation in my life and how I check my motives.
This morning I was irritated at my someone’s lack of response to a question I asked. When he did respond, it was in a tone of voice I determined was one of frustration, possibly anger. Before I processed what was going on inside me, I reacted by voicing my hurt over his seemingly critical response.
What do you think my motives were? Let’s unpack this situation.
- “This morning I was irritated…”
- Why was I irritable? I woke up this morning out of sorts. Yesterday was an emotionally tough one for me. The events of the day lead to an emotional crisis, which in turn triggered my FEAR…today.
- I was irritable because I was FEARFUL about an event from the day before. I was living in the past, rather than in the current moment.
- My FEAR generates many secondary states like anger, frustration and irritability. These feelings tell my EGO to take charge.
- “…it was in a tone of voice I determined was…”
- How do I “determine” anyone’s tone of voice or attitude? In this case I made a JUDGEMENT based on FEAR.
- Already sensitive, I was motivated by FEAR to look for reassurance, but instead heard the other person’s disapproval (though my FEARFUL thinking made his reply seem like a JUDGEMENT toward me, when it actually wasn’t.
- My FEAR generated a need for approval, to soothe my FEARFUL EGO.
- “Voicing My HURT over his seemingly critical response…”
- Why was I hurt? Because I was FEARFUL the other person was upset with me.
- In the past, when I thought another person was upset with me, the fear activated my people-pleasing character defect(PPCD). When acting from the base of PPCD, I’d do or say whatever I could to defuse and change a situation to make the other person/people involved, “happy.”
- I can’t be an active people-pleaser, acting out of an egotistical desire, while being authentic. The two are mutually exclusive.
As you noticed, during the story I used a bold font for important concepts. Take a look how we unpacked the situation. First, take a moment and count the number of times I used the words I, me and my. By my count, those words were used 27 times. All reference the EGO and show the immense power it has to control our minds and lives.
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionaries define ego as, “the self, especially as contrasted with another self or the world,” or “the opinion you have about yourself.” Our motives spring from our egos.
When a person’s ego is unhealthy, as mine was, all kinds of emotions and beliefs will take root in it. It’s fertile soil for distorted thinking and reflexive actions, which lead to unintended consequences.
Emotion is our next hurdle. Let’s now count how many variations of the word fear are included in the story. Fear of some form appears 10 times. Judgement appears twice, ego is seen three times and hurt shows up once.
Are you beginning to see how pervasive motives become? Do you understand the incredible value of seeing where they show up in your own life? Are you aware you cannot change your motives on your own?
CS Lewis was quoted as saying, “And if (as I said before) what we are matters even more than what we do — if, indeed, what we do matters chiefly as evidence of what we are — then it follows that the change which I most need to undergo is a change that my own direct, voluntary efforts cannot bring about.
And this applies to my good actions too. How many of them were done for the right motive? How many for fear of public opinion, or a desire to show off? How many from a sort of obstinacy or sense of superiority which, in different circumstances, might equally have led to some very bad act?
But I cannot, by direct moral effort, give myself new motives. After the first few steps in the Christian life we realize that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God.”
It is God who brings our motives to our attention. It’s up to us to perceive His efforts and back Him up with our own. We can look to Jesus, who sees the true motives of every person. While on earth he spent time healing the sick, diseased and discarded. He healed those who believed he could.
“And suddenly, a woman who had hemorrhaged for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, ‘If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.’ But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well. And the woman was made well from that hour.” Matthew 9:22
Prayer, meditation and reading the Word gives you the knowledge and strength do what is necessary to tame your character defects and ultimately, your ego. Join me Saturday for Part Two of “Mind Your Motives!” I will introduce the tools I used to rein my ego in so I could follow the path Jesus laid out for me.
If you are tired of being a slave to yourself and everyone around you, there is a path to freedom. You can start working on the you, you want to be. The techniques are free, there’s no hidden agenda. I just love helping others.
PLEASE SHARE this article and rate it if you like it. Check back Saturday for Part Two of “Mind Your Motives!” Until then, may you be blessed by God’s unending love for his children. Peace.
* “Motive.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2017.