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Pastor Scott Richards, First United Methodist Church, Post

Assumptions and Motivations

Published May 2, 2012 @ 6 a.m.

When my son was small I discovered quickly that he had great logical thinking skills.  Once you understood what his assumptions were it was a straight line to his conclusions.  I was always impressed that at such a young age he could think that many steps forward to form a solution about whatever he was thinking about.  The only problem was that my son’s assumptions were not always good assumptions.

Really, most of us are that same way.  Once you understand our assumptions we are pretty logical about how we come to our conclusions.  But if that is true how come it seems that many people have a hard time making good decisions?  The answer is in our assumptions; the experiences, teachings, and motivations that make up the background and bedrock of our lives.  Few people set out in life thinking “I hope I always make a bad decision.”  But few of us ever question our own experiences, the things we have learned from our parents, teachers and friends about life, or our own motivations that drive our interpretation of all of these things.  And yet, if our assumptions are wrong the greatest likelihood is that our decisions will be wrong as well.

There is really very little that anyone can do with their experiences.  Life happens.  Very often we are not in control of life.  What we are in control of is how we choose to interpret and use the experiences that we have.  We often get a lot of guidance from parents, teachers, and friends on how we should interpret our experiences.  Sometimes our wrong assumptions have been given to us by the very ones we grew up getting guidance from.

Those whose advice and teachings we follow I call sources.  The quality of our conclusions and our decision making often relies upon the quality of our sources.  Parents are often our greatest source.  In our most formative years it is their choices and their decision making that forms much of our lives.  We don’t always understand our parents and it seems that they get smarter as we get older but they are the source that has formed our deepest assumptions.

A distant second to parents as a source of our assumptions are our teachers.  These may be public school teachers, someone from our church, or any adult who has taken enough interest in our lives to teach us how to live.  The quality of the assumptions that these teachers have made in their own lives affects the quality of the assumptions we make about our lives.

Friends and colleagues may very well form the most immediate source of our assumptions.  This also tends to be the worst source of information for us.  Friends and colleagues not only vary in the quality of their own assumptions but the information we learn from them has everything to do with their own agendas and what it is they want from us.  The only time this source is really trustworthy is when we have a true friend; someone who wants the best for us and is willing to sacrifice for us.  My wife is my truest friend.  I value her opinions and advice very highly.

I have another friend in a very high place.  This friend has walked in my shoes and knows the things that I struggle with.  He has already sacrificed His life for me and I know the love He has for me.  His is both the best source of information for my life and the most trustworthy.  Yes, His name is Jesus.  But there is something else that Jesus can do that no one else can do.

The most important factor in our assumptions is our own motivations.  What make us, us, is how we think and how we feel and what we will.  Our motivations are formed by our parents as well as our experiences and what we have set as the goals for our lives; but also, our motivations interpret what we experience and what we are taught to form our assumptions.  No matter how good our experiences and no matter how good our teachers if our motivations are corrupt our assumptions will be bad.

Our motivations can corrupt our decisions even when everyone else thinks our decisions are good.  That is why suicide is as prevalent in the wealthy as it is in the poor.  How good a decision is has little to do with how much money it makes.  How decision making is judged is by the joy, fulfillment and happiness we have in our lives and in the lives of others.  As many will tell you pleasure is not the same as joy and fulfillment.  In fact, pleasure often leads to apathy and emptiness.

Almost no one can change their own motivations.  We can work with them and shape them and mold them but at their core our motivations remain fairly constant.  There is only one thing that can change our motivations at the core of who we are.  That one thing is the person of Jesus Christ.

If you find that your life is empty and filled with apathy; If you live your life for that next high weather that is figuratively or realistically; If nothing seems good about you or your life then maybe the time has come to talk to Jesus and let Him change your motivations.

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