Why Do You Do What You Do?
Sometimes I can be pretty slow when it comes to understanding why I do the dumb things I do. I like to think that most of the time I’m a pretty great guy and if everyone in the world was as loving and giving as me, the world would be a pretty amazing place. But then from time to time, I’m afforded an opportunity to see myself as I really am and realize that I’m not as great as I thought. Let me explain.
Since my office is in our home and Jennifer works outside of our home, I’m often here alone. Sometimes during the day, I would do little odd jobs around the house. If I had time, I might load the dishwasher or make the bed or run the vacuum. I might mop the kitchen floor or straighten up the living room. She never asked or required that I do any of this, but it was simply (or so I thought) an effort to show Jennifer how much I loved her and that the things that mattered to her, mattered to me.
But then…I began to understand that what I was doing wasn’t as loving and self-sacrificial as I once thought. I started to see it after years of reacting the way that I did. I found myself getting mad at Jennifer for not noticing what I had done. If she came home and didn’t immediately notice the little tasks that I had accomplished, I’d get angry at her for not noticing what I had done and recognizing what a selfless, sacrificial giver I was. How dare she not acknowledge what a wonderful husband I was and how I was loving her through these monumental tasks that I performed without her asking. Pretty sick, huh?
Then I began to realize that in reality my motives were not as pure as I first thought. I realized that I wasn’t doing what I was doing because I loved her…but I was doing what I was doing for credit. I wanted her approval and appreciation. There was a “hook” and agenda behind everything I did. I wanted her to realize how fortunate she was to be married to such a wonderful man….and laud me with praises, appreciation and wonder at her good fortune for “being one” with one as great as me. I wanted her to owe me for doing what I did. In short, I was doing what I was doing to control her; to control her opinion of me and then hope that she would repay her “debt” in the way she responded to me. And when it didn’t work….I got mad…and hurt…and disappointed.
But then through a series of circumstances, I began to see what I was doing to myself, to her and most importantly to our marriage. I admitted to her (and now to you) my not-so-pure motives and agendas. I came clean that all I was trying to do was make her see how great I was in my own eyes to manipulate and control her opinion of me. And thankfully, when I realized and admitted it….for the most part…it stopped.
Now instead of doing things “to get” or control or obligate, I do those things simply because they need to get done. Now instead of helping around the house to manipulate and expect appreciation or approval, I do them because I want to. Now instead of doing to get credit, I do them because it’s the right thing to do…whether Jennifer notices or not. As a result I’ve found a freedom and joy in those same tasks that before had enslaved me to a set of expectations and disappointments.
Here’s my point; we can all be really slick in our little attempts to control people and their opinion of us. We can “puff ourselves up” so easily by comparing what we do…to what others do or don’t do. We can so easily turn a “good deed” into a show that reveals our desperate need for love, approval and credit. We can so easily turn our “sacrifice” into a competition to reveal how much better we are than those we self-righteously judge.
Maybe from time to time we all need to ask ourselves, “Why do I do the things I do? Is it for credit, approval, appreciation, and the applause of men…or is it because a life of service, sacrifice and selflessly giving of myself is simply the best way to live?”
When Jesus said, “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing” maybe that’s what He was trying to say. In other words, Jesus might be saying “Don’t do what you do for credit. Don’t do it to be seen. Don’t do it to control people’s opinion or obligate them to pay you back. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because it’s the best way to live. Do it because My sacrifice and My example has made such a difference in your life that you couldn’t imagine doing life any other way.”
I may be slow….but I am learning.