Growing up in conservative Christianity, it was a pervasive hobby and habit to always be considering what I should be doing.
I have found myself still doing this today. I sometimes realize it is overdrive and overkill and working against me.
It can especially go into overdrive when I am at a (non-conservative, non-religious) Christian conference, when I am interested in being at my best, to please God, and to receive as much as I can from Him, and right my life as much as I can for Him and me and others. My mind has sought religiously in non-religous/legalistic/perfectionistic atmospheres simply because it has been conditioned to.
But by going overboard in striving to be proper, righteous, doing the right thing, pleasing to God, and true to the Bible, the straight and narrow pathway — it is a mess. Even that last statement needs to be untangled:
Pleasing God the Person is good, as it is love to do so, and therefore the first and greatest commandment. You can never go wrong with that. Pleasing the idea of God or trying to please the law, wherein the idea of God is captured in the law, is missing the mark of the new covenant and new law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:2). I will elaborate:
What is the First Commandment, Really?
“God must like this, because it’s in my doctrine, which is in the Bible, which is instruction from God.” It makes sense but I have to tell myself “No!” because it is too indirect. It can’t be indirect at all.
Loving God through anything indirect is actually idolatry, placing something before God. “You shall have no other Gods before me.” So by pleasing the law, and loving the law above God, and in place of God, making it an idol, it is a violation of the first of the ten commandments.
The first and greatest commandment isn’t to love the social customs of one’s church (because the people in the church are God’s and God probably helps them have good customs, or they are at least a work in progress and the best example around.) No way!
The first and greatest commandment isn’t to love doctrine. It isn’t to love one’s interpretation of the Scriptures. One cannot strive to obey the laws of the Scriptures, taking pride in having diligently come to a rational conclusion about what the Scriptures say, and then made a disciplined and sacrificial choice to conform to that interpretation, and then think one must have loved God simply on those merits.
“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) People use this quote to say obeying the commandments equals love. This is misreading the text. There is an if, and there is a then. It does not say, “if you obey my commandments, then you love me.” This would be a lazy and false spirituality, to think one has obeyed and therefore one has loved, if one obeys a command and considers love to be fulfilled.
Not convinced? Consider 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, which gives several examples of people obeying commands and doing righteous acts — without love: sacrificing one’s possessions to feed the poor, having a faith that can move mountains, having a gift of prophecies to know all mysteries and all knowledge. Consider those who prophesied and cast out demons in Jesus’ name to whom He said “depart from me, I never knew you, you who practice lawlessness!”
Know God! Love God. If I love, I believe the obedience will naturally solve itself. To me, this is a comforting fact: I can focus my energies and my will on loving God, rather than worrying about what is considered obedience that I might do it. If I seek God earnestly, I will be rewarded.
From Two Minds to One
James 1 says we can ask God for wisdom, and we’ll receive it, if we are not double-minded, carrying two competing thoughts, in which case we can expect to receive nothing.
How is one double-minded? Well, in the MindFacets model of personality, within each person, there are two hemispheres of the mind that are designed to work in unity as one, but if they lack unity, they will act as two, double-minded.
One hemisphere will set on a course of action, and the other will question it: “I think I should do this instead.” The first hemisphere may have a true plan, but if a spirit (also known as attitude) of overblown propriety prevails, that first hemisphere may be intimidated into the perfectionism.
The answer is in the process of unification. In unification of two entities, such as hemispheres of the mind, one of the two must be the decision-maker, and set out on a course of action, and decide what is desirable. The other must be the informer. It is capable of forming opinions of what is desirable, but its role is to objectively provide the decision-maker with all available information.
The decision-maker is responsible for forming conviction based on the information available, and the informer is responsible for providing as rich an information ecosystem as possible.
Stop the Insanity
“Should I do this? Should I do that? I should do this. Oh what about this principle? It is more right to do this other thing. But I thought I should have been doing the first thing. Help!”
Recognizing which part of the mind is responsible for conviction is the answer. Then the other can provide the information about what might be the straight and narrow path, and other interesting ideas, with a trust in the decider to make the best decision. (With a super rich set of information, how can it not?)
Enneagram: Holy Will (2)
In the Enneagram, this struggle relates to point 2, Holy Will. Being a never-ending people pleaser (or incessant pleaser of the law) is going to fray one’s own identity and true conviction, and therefore conscience. One must believe that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11) and that God (not the law, or a set of social or other rules) leads those who are His in paths of righteousness (Psalm 23), and to take confidence and trust in that conviction. Then one’s own will can be holy, and aligned with God’s.