We’re all driven by something. That motivator deep inside of us that moves us to run, hide, push, or even let go. There’s a myriad of circumstances, values, idols and emotions that can drive one’s life. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the truth behind the real motivation. Sometimes it’s locked up inside and separates us from being free. ♦
There’s an ancient Greek maxim, “know thyself“ utilized by Plato in his writings that is considered long-established wisdom. It has been interpreted to mean that one is to understand themselves in context of others and to have moderation in that view. We don’t need the Greeks (330 BC – 63 BC) to teach us right perspective on ourselves, though their logic and intellectual insight is impressive. We can do very well simply with the Word of God as both the Old and New Testament give us ample doses of holy wisdom, inspired human history, and powerful teaching and guidance from Christ himself and the profound writings of the Apostle Paul.
Yes, we should “know thyself” and then some, as it’s quite easy to run afoul and miss the mark in a worldly life and culture. What we uncover and do about it is the key to harnessing motivation and driving it in the right direction.
5 Key Motivators and Drivers
There is a myriad of circumstances, values, idols and emotions that can drive one’s life. Here are 5 of the most common ones:
1. Shame – We can spend years running and hiding from guilt and shame. Many will not allow themselves to escape from the burden. It literally binds their past and controls their future. Some, like Cain (Genesis 4), allow their past mistakes to keep them in bitterness and disconnect themselves from God’s presence and lead a life as a “restless wanderer on the earth.” While it took decades (God waited for his enemies to die), Moses turned from murderer to leader of a nation. Gideon moved from coward to courageous hero. Peter rose from Christ-denying deserter to the leader of the emerging Christian church, never again to deny Christ but to even die for Him and the New Way. If we can only believe that God is forgiving and all about new beginnings and fresh starts. He’s a God of redemption and restoration. Let guilt and shame no longer control you.
– Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin (and guilt) is put out of sight! – Ephesians 2:10
2. Anger – This and resentment stewing inside can kill us and cast damaging stones of hurt and anguish even on those whom we love. We can seethe or we can relinquish control and angst. Some hold onto hurts and never get over them. They never release their pain through forgiveness and so stew in their bitterness. They either internalize or harbor their hurt and anger or explode it onto others. Both responses are unhelpful. What’s happened in the past is what happened in the past – nothing will change it. The Enemy would have you relive it, again and again and again in your mind. Your loving Father would have you confess, learn from it, and then let it go.
– Surely resentment destroys the fool, and jealousy kills the simple. – Job 5:2
3. Fear – We fear what we can’t control. We fear past hurts and reminders of traumatic experiences and unrealistic performance expectations set upon us. We fear failure, disappointment, rejection and anything that reminds us of our imperfections or past stumbling. We can be paralyzed by this fear and therefore miss great opportunities. Like a self-imposed prison, fear will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be. Fear is a lie of spiritual warfare and we must move against it boldly with weapons of faith in God’s assurances and love.
– There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18
4. Money – It’s not just wealth, it’s covetousness and materialism. Some of us can be driven by desire to acquire more and more possessions. The misconception is that having more will make one happier and feel more important and more secure. Like the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21) it’s a sorry tale of worldly mindedness that ends poorly. It’s not wealth that’s the problem (this is nowhere in Scriptures!), it’s when wealth becomes an end in itself and is not used with a sense of holy stewardship unto God, then it becomes a snare and a delusion. Possessions provide only temporary happiness. But they can become an obsession and a sick substitute for self-worth. Self-worth and net worth are not the same. Real worth – true security in Christ-identity – can only be found in that which can’t be taken from you – your relationship with God.
– No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. – Matt.6:24
5. Validation – We want to be known and recognized for who we are and what we accomplish. This is ultimately like chasing the wind as it is, if achieved, but fleeting and unsatisfactory in the long-term. Many people struggle to meet or earn the approval of parents who are never quite satisfied. Sometimes it is peer pressure, crowd following, high expectations or simply the desire to please everyone. Being controlled by the opinions of others is a guaranteed way to miss God’s purposes for our life. It is wisdom to recognize that ultimately the cheering is brief and that true validation comes from our Father who loves without condition or performance measures, but that we simply acknowledge and identify with the spotless Lamb of God (Christ).
– And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. – Ecclesiastes 4:4
Knowing the source of pain, woundings and subtle but driving motivations are just part of the battle. Relinquishing its control over you is the rest. God forgives; He alone. Confess and heal from shame, anger and fear. Let go of pride and possessions and need for human validation. It may appear good in the present, but ultimately hollow in truth apart from what is precious and eternal. Nothing truly matters more than knowing God’s purposes for one’s life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them – not success, wealth, fame or pleasure. Our motives, without a larger purpose, can lead to a trivial, petty and pointless life. Or they leave you large, thriving and free to fly.
What drives your life?
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. – Ephesians 5:17