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Thursday: Our Rock and Refuge — 19 Comments

  1. Social media is a jungle with wild animals luring in it to trap the unwary. If you do not know how it works, it is best to avoid it. Unfortunately, many of us have to deal with it for a variety of reasons. I belong to several Facebook groups for bird photography, community information, and so on. I am involved in our local community's Facebook group mainly because I want to contribute information and awareness about the environment. Most of my posts are about the local bird life. (We have over 160 species of birds in the area, so I am not likely to run out of material quickly) Most of the interaction I have with the local community is appreciative but every now and then I get a respondent who is quite cranky.

    One woman let fly at me with a string of quite hurtful accusations. I wrote a stinging rebuttal of her diatribe. Fortunately, my answer took some time to type and by the time it was ready to send, I had simmered down and started thinking. I had the advantage of having done research on social media interaction and had previously read case studies of how different corporations had interacted with their social media followers. In short, reacting did not have a good outcome, to put it mildly.

    I pressed the delete button rather than the send button on my response. I let the accusations and insinuations stand. The people who knew me knew that they were not true and the people who did not know me didn't care anyhow. The woman's accusation comment sat there by itself with no likes and no following responses.

    And I have to admit that there are times when I have not followed that strategy and I have been the worse for it too.

    The natural inclination is to defend one's self. but Jesus taught us the value of turning the other cheek, go the second mile, and being generous towards those that hurt you. Being on what we think is a high moral ground is not a reason to shout about it.

    • Thank you brother Maurice Ashton. I always read your comments. I'm sure Jesus guides your steps. Keep making these comments, they are a beautiful mission: there is always someone who appreciates them very much!
      Greetings from the island of Cyprus! My wife and I are missionaries here.
      Many blessings,
      Bruno Barbosa


    • Maurice,
      I absolutely love this "The natural inclination is to defend one's self. but Jesus taught us the value of turning the other cheek, go the second mile, and being generous towards those that hurt you. Being on what we think is a high moral ground is not a reason to shout about it."
      I had a like situation yesterday, unfortunately, I didn't stop talking soon enough. So my "high moral ground" became a slime pit which is very difficult to extract myself from. The thought that occurred to me, is drama isn't caused by what is said or done to me. Drama is caused by my RESPONSE to what is said or done. Because you held your fingers in responding to your accuser, there was no drama. My father used to always say measure thrice and cut once.

    • I have a one minute send delay on my email accounts. It is amazing how one minute of reflection can change the content of an email or cause its deletion.

  2. Today's lesson correctly mentions the potential role of the unconscious or sub-conscious in influencing people's behaviour or attitudes (including judgments) toward us. And the Ellen White goes on to also correctly note that, "without cause men will become our enemies. The motives of the people of God will be misinterpreted, not only by the world, but by their own brethren" and that this will result in "insult and misjudgment".

    How do these things happen? Part of the answer is due to how our brain operates under a sin-infected reality*. In order to be 'efficient' both in terms of processing speed and brain resources, the default tendency of our brain as fallen humans is to do as much processing subconsciously as possible. One of the downsides of this default tendency is that our subconscious brain essentially prioritises efficiency over accuracy. And unless we put in conscious and intentional effort to become more conscious of our brain's functioning in order to progressively re-train it to pay more attention to accuracy (eg, 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Romans 12:2 principles), our subconscious functioning will not progressively grow beyond this default tendency.

    From the sake of efficiency, our subconscious makes assumptions - assuming its 'default-appraisals' to be true without checking. When interacting with others, our brains need to 'assess' not only the behaviour we are seeing (or more technically correctly, appear to be seeing) in regard to another person, but we also need to infer motive associated with that behaviour. For example, our brains need to know if someone is genuinely giving us a compliment or whether they are being sarcastic. But as 1 Samuel 16:7 correctly notes, only God can actually see a person's motives. Consequently, all our subconscious brain can do is assume motive. But what is this assumption based upon?

    Again, in the name of efficiency but at the expense of accuracy, our subconscious brain will attempt to make do with what it has available. And what does it have available access to? Our motives - when we do behaviours that seem similar. For example, a person who chronically lies will likely have a default tendency to assume that everyone else also chronically lies.

    What is the bottom line of all of this? First, we need to be aware of our default tendencies by asking the Holy Spirit to help us become more aware (as per Psalm 139:23-24). We need to keep in mind that we cannot guarantee our assumption of another's motives are accurate (1 Samuel 16:7) and therefore be aware that we may in fact be 'projecting' our own motives upon others (eg as was happening in John 8:48-49; 43-46). Therefore we need to actually check out our assumptions with others to increase the chances of more accurately understanding another's true motives.

    Yes, I acknowledge that in checking things out with others, they may be self-deceived as to their own motives (Jeremiah 17:9) or they may lie to 'save face'. Such people would be termed 'unsafe'. However, when dealing with 'sufficiently safe' people, the benefits of taking the time to check out another's motives well outweigh the risks and/or effort involved in doing so. Think of the hurt that could be reduced or avoided if we were to practice this? Then perhaps we individually and collectively could better reflect Christ as a rock that is a refuge.

    What do you think?

    * Satan well knows our vulnerabilities and seeks to maximise exploitation of them in any way he can to "steal, kill and destroy" (John 10:10).

    • Thanks, Phil, for the background of how our minds work.
      If I understand you correctly, this is the bottom line:

      Our perception of the motives of others says more about us than about them, because we judge them according to the motives we would have in a similar situation. Thus it is very likely that we often judge motives incorrectly, and if we want to know motives, we actually need to ask, "Why are you doing/saying that?" or something to that effect.

      The way I see it, we may not get the true motive even then because people sometimes don't understand their true motives and other times they will not want to reveal their true motives.

      As Christians, I think that Jesus's rule of treating others as we would like to be treated provides the best solution: We would like others to put the best possible interpretation on our motives. So let's do that for others. (I think I already mentioned the story of a family friend who was being "used" by others, but he was unaware of the fact and much happier than those who were using him. That has always stuck with me. If we are wrong in putting the best interpretation on the actions of others, we are still much better off than putting a negative interpretation on the motives of others.)

      • Hi Inge

        1) Your summary is correct with respect to the default tendency of humans. Hence the awareness of this and the willingness to actually check our assumptions out is very important - as you note.

        2) Yes, even checking things out with others doesn't guarantee identification of true motive due to, as you mentioned, the possibility that the other person doesn't understand their true motive, may be self-deceived about their true motive, or may even be deceitful in portraying their true motive.

        3) However, the process of development of maturity "by practice" (Hebrews 5:14), especially where a person does so under so under the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, increases the potential accuracy of perception. This is not merely because of practice alone, but practice in conjunction with the discernment that the Holy Spirit gives/gifts.

        4) Your suggestion that the 'golden rule' (principle) of treating others as we would like to be treated is "the best solution" provided we understand this as applying the principle of other-focussed love (beneficence) in the way we 'treat' others. At the same time, I would further clarify this for the sake of readers who may be in abusive situations where misunderstanding of this principle might occur (which sadly has happened too many times). The principle of other-focussed love is about treating another in a way that is in their best interests, though not always necessarily in the specific way you would want to be treated. For example, a person who likes to be treated 'gently' and not confronted might think that this is how they should also treat the person abusing them. But that would risk "enabling" the abuser to keep on abusing and therefore, while it would be what the abuser would want, is not in the genuine best interests of the abuser who is destroying their character and hardening their heart. However, I would also acknowledge that there are situations in which it would be physically unsafe for an abused person to take a stand against abuse, so that needs to be considered too in such situations. This is all the more reason why Christian community and Christian households need to become safe places - even though, sadly, abuse rates within those situations mirror those within the wider world in general and have risen across the past couple of years.

        • Come to think of it, Phil, there is another aspect to treating others as we would like to be treated, and that is that we need to understand how the "other" thinks and feels. I have in the past made the mistake of treating others as I would like to be treated and the "other" was thoroughly offended, having a totally different set of values. But I was thinking only of interpreting motives in the best way possible..

          I do appreciate your further clarification.

      • Inge,
        Something I frequently experience is despite my stating what the motive is, the assumption is that my statement if different from theirs is incorrect. I tend to try and take what is said to me as true until proven otherwise. 1 Corinthians 2:11 "For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so, no man knoweth the things of God, but the Spirit of God."

        I agree, treat others as we'd like to be treated is key.

        • Hi Myron, you wrote,

          I tend to try and take what is said to me as true until proven otherwise.

          I believe that's applying the Golden Rule. 🙂 Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone did that?

    • My thanks to you and Inge for your thought provoking comments. As I was reading your posts, it occurred to me that a group of persons may function subconsciously (group think) with results similar to an individual, but more devastating because the one on the receiving end of the group’s insults and misjudgment is intimidated by the power of the group. As I read through Psalm 62, this is what David is struggling with. And this is what Jesus struggled with in John 8.

      This is why in the context of Philippians 2:1-18, the mind of Christ is critical—it is critical to both the individual and church who claim the name of Christ. It defines purpose: the revelation of God’s character in practice.

      • Spot on Richard. So true and so sad when it happens.

        And what is the mind of Christ if not a willingness to lay our own lives down if necessary in order to lift others up - as per your Philippians reference.

        Thanks for your enhancing contributions too...

  3. Now days, we are all exposed somehow. I take the example of the written messages one can exchange through "fast track communication apps". Sometimes we are thinking in one direction and the response comes from a complete distorted point of view. The possible interpretation is so varied because it is dependent on the state of mind of the person who receives the message. Thus, "the obvious must be said, at all times", and a Christ like always transparent attitude can save us from a lot of trouble.

  4. Silence is golden-though not easy-it's always better to drink your tea when it has cooled rather than when it's steaming hot. Most times, it is our responses that stirs up anger rather can create peace. Let to purpose in our hearts to be more like Jesus.🙏🙏🙏

  5. sir maurice just wanted to say that i look forward to reading your comments daily.God Bless.an of course all the other ones as well....


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