A motive is “a reason for doing something.” Notice it says a reason, not the reason. We, humans, are complicated rascals. We almost always act with multiple motives. Even when we just want to pass along information, our words can give away our feelings. In addition to our words, our body language, voice intonation, and facial expressions can communicate motives.
Think about it. There’s the ever-present motive of impressing people and the motive of not embarrassing ourselves and the motive of not hurting the other person’s feelings. Add all that together, and it’s easy to see that every relational interaction comes loaded with motives. And if we’re not careful, we’ll get so caught up in reading between the lines that we let our imaginations start prescribing motives to other people.
I’m working on shutting down the part of my imagination that prescribes people’s motives and simply taking their words at face value. Receiving words as they’re spoken, paying attention to the person’s feelings, and leaving out all the guesses about their motives. Believing the best about people is simplifying. If someone is really trying to hurt me or intentionally be mean, I’ll know it. And if they’re really empathetic, I’ll know that too.
One of my favorite things about God is how He loves and accepts me even though I have multiple motives. When the subscriber list to these posts topped 8,000, there was a moment of gratitude immediately accompanied by a little bit of pride. Even though I want to believe that my overarching motive is helping people walk more closely with God, He knows I’m an achiever and like to see the numbers go up. So, when He weighs my motives, He’s not keeping score to reward or punish me. He’s doing what a Perfect Father does . . . patiently watching and waiting. Should my pride get a little out of control, maybe a few people will hit unsubscribe. Should I go the other way and get a bit self-righteous, comments might appear asking if I’m getting a bit preachy or writing about overly “spiritual,” but utterly useless stuff.
Pay attention to your heart and keep a close check your motives. And leave the motives of others to be weighed by the Lord.
Scripture: All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord. (Proverbs 16:2)