Motivations that build or destroy our ability to live well

If someone gives you a gift, you might feel good. Whether or not you’re prone to want gifts, gifts motivated by love are nice. Right?

But, if you sense that they’re doing it out of obligation, or what they gave is something that offends, or it is irrelevant to your needs and desires (i.e. evidence that they didn’t really think about you when picking it out, only themselves) it doesn’t feel so good. Does it?

In a similar way, a sincere apology is a gift of sorts. It can break down barriers between two people when pride is laid down for the sake of another.

However, when someone apologizes by saying the words “I’m sorry”, but the rest of their language (verbal and non-verbal) indicate otherwise, it doesn’t feel good either. It may feel downright infuriating if they indicate (in any way) that you’re to blame, or that what they said or did wasn’t a big deal, or that they’re merely saying words to protect themselves.

If the apology feels forced, it loses the ability to bring about healing and connection between two people.

What was damaged at a heart-level can’t be restored without heart engagement. 

I suspect kids feel this kind of frustration when parents force them to apologize by saying they’re sorry. I know I’ve stirred anger in my kids by doing this.

Helping others can also be a beautiful gift, yet it becomes tainted if serving becomes focused on the giver rather than the receiver.

What we say and do, how we say and do it, and what we do with the things we say and do matter. But, what lies underneath the actions and feelings matters more.

Motivation matters.

motivations build or destroy

Motivation Check-Ins

As someone who’s interested in letting God mold me so I can grow and experience Him more, I’m frequently checking-in on my motivations. Others may not even notice when my motivations aren’t pure, but I do because I do regular heart check-ins.

I ask questions of myself and leave room for God to answer too. What I sense as His response may convict, comfort, or spark courage.

Why am I saying/doing this?

Why would I write this (response, social media post, email, etc.)?

Why am I responding/acting in such a way?

I don’t necessarily ask those questions, but the deeper question that spurs an answer to the three above.

What’s Motivating Me Right Now?

Essentially, I wonder…

Am I motivated for the sake of self (protection, pride, defense, etc) or am I motivated from God at work in me?

It’s hard to know the difference at times, but there is freedom in stepping forward to speak, do, and live because you believe God is leading. When you respond from your best understanding of what God is saying and remain pliable to His correction and change of direction, you’re free to move and grow.

If you get it wrong, there is grace for that.

A heart-check could keep me stuck if I’m motivated by fear and not love. I may live by the fear of not getting it right and that kind of motivation is unhealthy.

If reflection helps brings awareness of self-reliance instead of God-reliance, it fuels opportunities for confession and surrender which lay the foundation for heart-level change.

The simple question, “What is motivating me right now?” can make a difference. Even if you don’t know the answer.

Motivation That Makes A Difference

It’s so easy to look at another person and assume their motivation is bad. Maybe it is, maybe not.

We might remain offended if it seems clear they were self-motivated, but we can also cause further problems by assuming we know what’s going on in them.

Assumptions are unhealthy motivations.

While there are times when it is wise to limit contact or establish personal limits with someone acting in ways that are self-motivated, we have a choice in how we respond. This is where our focus needs to be.

Only God and the other person knows what motivates them. It is not our responsibility to manage.

Only God and you can know what motivates you. You are entirely responsible for managing your own motivations. It makes a difference in your ability to live well.

Motivations Impact Responses & Relationships

When someone is insincere, says something you don’t like or disagree with, does something that is hurtful, or doesn’t respond at all, you can choose your response. The way you respond will in part be determined by your motivations.

You can be motivated for the good of another person and from a place of love flowing through you, or you can be motivated by unhealthy beliefs that continually deter you.

What you say and do might be motivated by caring for self or trusting in God’s care of you.

There could be reasonable fears for self-protection, but they don’t negate the impact this type of motivation has on our lives and the lives of others.

When someone’s words trigger a fiery response, take a moment to step back. Breathe. Check-in with your heart.

Motivations Can Build or Destroy

Anger is a motivating emotion that responds to injustice.

Emotions aren’t bad. Feeling anger isn’t bad. It’s how anger motivates us to respond in ways that cause further harm and disconnection that becomes problematic. Our motivation for action as a response to anger makes a difference.

If anger motivates us to retaliate, we are protecting our self and choosing to play God. If it leads us to speak up for injustice and take action to stop evil, it motivates us towards our collective good and God’s glory.

Our motivations have the ability to foster actions that heal or harm, build or destroy.

Put another way, motivations can fuel harm or foster healing.

They can be helpful or damaging in our ability to connect with others, give and receive love, and engage in healthy, responsive living.

Consider that anger isn’t the only emotion that can motivate us to destructive patterns. Some motivations are more subtle.

The giver and people-pleaser may choose to serve in ways that seem selfless to others, but really they’re afraid of dealing with their own anxiety and fear of rejection. They are serving a purpose motivated by self-protection and not for self-surrender.

Motivated by God at Work

Only we can know what our motivations are.

We will only know if we are aware and allow God to bring greater awareness. To do this we can do heart check-ins and let God speak to the deeper motivations.

If we choose to faithfully respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit we make room to receive the gift of growth. The gift of experiencing more of God and the peace, joy, and freedom He gives.

That is, if we are motivated by God’s good at work in us and not us trying to make good things work out for ourselves. 🙂

God at work in our hearts changes motivational patterns.

Motivation matters.

Think of a recent interaction with someone.

What motivated how you responded to them? Was it from a place of God at work in your life or a place self-protection?






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