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Understanding Motives

Why do people do what they do? If we could figure this out we would be God. Think about your own reasons for doing things. Very seldom are we motivated by a single, obvious reason. If we decide to mow the grass, we are probably doing it because it needs to be mowed. Right? Or, are we doing it because we know it annoys our spouse when we put it off? Or, are we doing it because the HOA requires us to keep the yard mowed?

When we finally decide to act, how do we decide when to do it? If we decide to mow the grass today, is it because of a conversation we had with our spouse, or are we are worried about it raining in the afternoon? Or, do we just want to get it done so we can watch football? As we go through each day, we are guided by scores of calculated decisions and refined conclusions that motivate us. Whether they are verbalized or consciosly thought about or not, most of us have reasons for what we do and when we do it?

When someone is charged with committing a crime, one of the first things the court tries to identify is the likely motive. What motivated the person to do what they did?

Think about the complexity of motive that is surely at play when someone decides to quit a job, go back to school, get a divorce, stop seeing a friend, attend church, etc? The motives behind the actions we take are fraught with more complexity and calculation than most would expect. Any way we look at it, life is complicated, which is why Jesus said we are not to judge the actions of other people!

“‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ Do not think yourself better than other men, and set yourself up as their judge. Since you cannot discern motive, you are incapable of judging another. In criticizing him, you are passing sentence upon yourself; for you show that you are a participant with Satan, the accuser of the brethren. The Lord says, ‘Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.’ This is our work. ‘If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.'” 2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Cor. 11:31 (Desire of Ages, p. 314).

Hmm. I think I’m going to mow the grass!

Rich DuBose writes from Northern California.

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

is director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference.

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