That title probably caught some attention.
Only a fool would answer, “No”, to such a question. And I know that no one reading this blog is a fool.
But we may have fooled ourselves about one great source of suffering in our lives. Here’s a true statement I’ve learned and hope you will give me a chance to prove to you:
“It’s not what someone does that creates most of your suffering. It’s the motives you assign to their actions that creates a world of pain.”
This is a giant paradigm shift. Most folks suffering deep pain because of problems with other people quickly point to “what” the other person has done. But it’s actually only you who can decide how much mental and emotional suffering you experience in relation to the tough events that happen in your life.
The way we create a lot of avoidable suffering is by judging the motives of those whose words or actions have disappointed us. It is not “what” they have done that causes the greatest pain. It’s “why” we feel that they did. The latter (and not the former) alone has the power to wreck our emotional world.
Here’s a parable that helps to clarify this.
A lady steps off of a curb to cross the street just as a motorist speeds by. Neither party saw the other soon enough. The lady is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. She’s in traction for several weeks. She is in terrible physical pain…but almost no emotional unrest. It was all an accident. The driver stops by the hospital room to apologize and offer any service. The injured lady is quick to forgive and to admit that she was jay-walking after all. Huge event. Major impact. Little suffering.
Now consider this story. Two couples have vacationed together for three years running. One day one of the couples hears from a third-party that the other couple has invited someone else to vacation with them this year. Small event. Minor impact. BUT POSSIBLY HUGE SUFFERING RESULTS. Why?
The couple who is not invited to vacation will find themselves immediately tempted to answer the question, “Why?” And the answer they come up with is what will create the emotions they immediately experience. If they attribute huge personal significance to this decision that someone else made, they will give the event HUGE power to hurt them. But if they avoid the temptation to “get into the mind and motives” of the other couple, and just refuse to turn the event into a statement of their own worth or significance, they will avoid a world of pain.
This is real stuff. Some of us are carrying around metric tons full of unnecessary suffering…because you have made yourself judge and jury of everyone’s intentions and motives. That’s God’s job alone.
When we try to do God’s jobs, we are out of our league totally. We simply don’t have the mental, moral, or emotional capacity to do His job. Ever. Run from it like the plague. Ebola has nothing on this disease.
I recently taught an entire lesson on this subject at our church. You can listen by going to our church’s resource page.
More along these lines in part 2.