When I say 'figured out' I mean more than before and not completely.
I have the qualifications, but don’t think that taught me much about understanding people.
I profess to be a Christian, but I am not sure I understood what the Bible teaches about people.
I am older and experienced, but I am not sure I have really understood people despite all those opportunities over all those years.
It took a casual line from a movie actor and a trashy, unmemorable movie (Wallander) to have taught something about human nature that all my learning and all my faith could not. Not these exact words, but something like this:
‘If you want to know why someone did something, just find out what they loved more’.
If you want to know why people screw up. If you need an explanation for why people sin. If you are curious about why people fail or succeed. If you want really understand people and make sense of the apparent contradictions. Then look for this one thing:
What do they love more?
- Why would an honest man commit a robbery? Because he loved money more than integrity.
- Why would a young girl fall for a loser? Because she loves hope more than truth.
- Why would a 30-year old live at the family home? Because he loves comfort more than dignity.
- Why would a person do a job they hate? Because they love security more than purpose.
- Why would a woman live with an abusive husband? Because she loves being needed more than being loved.
- Why do people vote ‘democrat’/ ‘labor’? Because they love the idea of charity more than independence.
- Why is there such a thing as a ‘struggling artist’? Because there are people who love creative expression more than financial gain.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
If you really want to find out why people behave they do, find out what they love the most. Or at least love more than the alternative.
People are motivated by what they believe (faith) only in part and are motivated by goals (hope) only in part, but the one motivator that stands above all is love. (1 Cor 13:9-11 paraphrased.)
In the life choices we make, we should make an honest attempt to discern what we love most in order to see what motivates our decisions.
If you choose to go the gym, but you love vanity more than health, it will probably not work as well. Your marriage will fail if you love yourself more than the person you marry.
We fail at our jobs if we love pleasing the boss more than doing the right thing.
Because clearly we all love the wrong thing at least occasionally. And knowing when it is so, will enable us to live more wisely.
And that applies to me as well.
- Let me count the ways in which I love wrongly:
- I love writing about people more than I love people.
- I love thinking about business more than doing business.
- I love the idea of being rich more than working for money.
- I love being right more than being popular.
That is not the full list, but those are the ones that have caused me the most anguish. I wish I had figured that out sooner.