A motive in the human heart is like deep water,
and a person who has understanding draws it out.
Who can say, “I’ve made my heart pure. I’m cleansed from my sin”?
Even a child makes himself known by his actions,
whether his deeds are pure or right. (Proverbs 20:5, 9, 11 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 20:1-13 GW)
People are people
Across cultures and geography, the basic needs and wants of people are the same. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, for the most part, are true any place among the peoples of the world.
And so, at a basic level, people are simple to understand. If we lack basic physiological needs, we’ll be motivated to fill those needs. Of course, this is in a general sense and there are always exceptions to the rule. But, as a general rule—people are people.
Beyond basic needs people get a bit complicated. The motives of a person’s heart aren’t always easy to discern, especially when the mind and heart of a person is in conflict.
Sociopaths and psychopaths are examples of people whose values and judgment are in conflict or turned upside down. Somewhere along the line, the development of their moral conscience was short-circuited..
What’s all of this got to do with these verses in Proverbs? Plenty!
Discernment and wisdom needed
Discernment and wisdom are required to know and understand a person’s motives. Psychology can help us with clinical observations but to discern at a deeper level we need help.
This is where the wisdom of God and God’s Spirit are valuable.
God—our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer—knows everyone inside and out—our deepest thoughts, motives, and feelings. We need His help and guidance to understand others, as well as ourselves.
As a leader and in counseling others, I learned how valuable it was to listen well.
I learned how valuable it is to listen well
Listening well includes hearing what is spoken, what is not said, and what is held back. Not just reading between the lines but listening at a deeper, spiritual level.
On the subject of motives, we often don’t discern our own motives. We fool ourselves into thinking our heart is pure and without sin.
For some of us, self-deception becomes our shield from reality. Self-deception can even become somewhat of an art form but not in a good way.
While counseling people and even while teaching or preaching, I often sensed the Lord asking me, “Are you hearing what you’re saying to them?” More often than I’d liked to admit, I needed to hear and heed my own counsel for others.
Sooner or later, who we are and what our motives are is revealed through our actions and attitudes. Others tend to know things about us before we’re aware of them—especially our parents, spouses, close friends, and children.
Even sociopaths and psychopaths are seen for who they are at some point though they don’t realize it themselves.
People are people. We’re all the same for the most part. Only God knows us and others at the deepest level of our being.
It takes patience and help to draw water from a deep well, as it does to discern motives and values in the heart of a person including ourselves.
Want to know your own or someone else’s motives?
Be patient. Be a good listener. Be humble.
And ask God for discernment and wisdom.
God alone knows us in the deepest sense. If we want to understand our own motives or the motives of others, we need His help. We also need to be patient, humble, and learn to listen well—to God and others.
As you go through your day, ask God to give you discernment and wisdom in your dealings with others and for how you live and interact with others.
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