Anybody ought to know better than that!” But they don’t. The reason people do what they do is because they believe for today and for them this is the best and wisest thing for them to do. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts (Proverbs 21:2, NKJV).
When I don’t believe that, I approach people with the attitude — they knew better and they did it anyway. I judge them to be malignant, dishonest and acting with evil intent. And, even though I don’t say it, the distrust and one-upness come out the pores of my skin.
But surely people know when they’re doing something clearly wrong — they know better than to do it.
Jesus didn’t think so. I don’t know anything worse than killing the Son of God. Did they know better? Jesus said they didn’t:
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34).
Peter agreed with Jesus about the same people committing the same act:
Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers (Acts 3:17).
Paul said the same as Jesus and Peter:
which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8).
If Jesus, Peter, Paul, and the Holy Spirit are right, people do wrong things because they believe wrong things. If I’m going to help them, I need to know what they believe and why.
We are both, he and I, doing what we’re doing for exactly the same reason: we believe we’re doing the right thing for us today.
[tweetthis]The reason people do what they do: they believe 4 today & 4 them this is the best & wisest thing 4 them 2 do.[/tweetthis]
If you don’t read Seth Godin’s blog, you’re missing one to three classics every month — sometimes that many in a week. He blogs every day, 365 times a year, 366 in leap years. They’re short, some unusual, but many are right on target and thought-provoking. You can subscribe by clicking on the link and typing your email address on the upper left-hand side of his blog: Seth Godin Blog
Here are two of his comments on the principle in Proverbs 21:2:
by Seth Godin
No one says, “I’m going to be unfair to this person today, brutal in fact, even though they don’t deserve it or it’s not helpful.”
Few people say, “I know that this person signed the contract and did what they promised, but I’m going to rip them off, just because I can.”
And it’s quite rare to have someone say, “I’m a selfish narcissist, and everyone should revolve around me merely because I said so.”
In fact, all of us have a narrative. It’s the story we tell ourselves about how we got here, what we’re building, what our urgencies are.
And within that narrative, we act in a way that seems reasonable.
To be clear, the narrative isn’t true. It’s merely our version, our self-talk about what’s going on. It’s the excuses, perceptions and history we’ve woven together to get through the world. It’s our grievances and our perception of privilege, our grudges and our loves.
No one is unreasonable. Or to be more accurate, no one thinks that they are being unreasonable.
That’s why we almost never respond well when someone points out how unreasonable we’re being. We don’t see it, because our narrative of the world around us won’t allow us to. Our worldview makes it really difficult to be empathetic, because seeing the world through the eyes of someone else takes so much effort.
It’s certainly possible to change someone’s narrative, but it takes time and patience and leverage. Teaching a new narrative is hard work, essential work, but something that is difficult to do at scale.
In the short run, our ability to treat different people differently means that we can seek out people who have a narrative that causes them to engage with us in reasonable ways. When we open the door for these folks, we’re far more likely to create the impact that we seek. No one thinks they’re unreasonable, but you certainly don’t have to work with the people who are.
And, if you’re someone who finds that your narrative isn’t helping you make the impact you seek, best to look hard at your narrative, the way you justify your unreasonableness, not the world outside.
by Seth Godin
Always right about feelings.
About the day he just experienced.
About the fears (appropriate and ill-founded) in his life.
About the narrative going on, unspoken, in his head.
About what he likes and what he dislikes.
You’ll need to travel to this place of ‘right’ before you have any chance at all of actual communication.
Why do people think wrong things are right? That’s where listening comes in. If I don’t get there, I fail to find the lost sheep where they are. I want them to be where I am, and we don’t meet.
[tweetthis]What if I start by trying to understand the person who acted unreasonable before I tell him or her what to do?[/tweetthis]
I might learn something about him or me, why we do what we do, and how we need to do some things differently.
What have you found effective in dealing with unreasonable people?