[This is Part 2 of a larger piece entitled, “An Inquiry into The Incompatibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a Religious, Performance-Based Psychology”]
Effects of Safe-Guarding Behavior That Comes from a Performance-Centric Mindset
The safeguarding behavior of a performance-centric mindset unsuccessfully mitigates disobedience. The performance-driven individual seeks obedience and adherence to religiosity as the ultimate goal. In realizing this achievement in a manner that accords with their expectations and standards, or those imposed upon them from outside, and ultimately, unauthoritative sources, they justify themselves to themselves. This sort of habitual practice dabbles in pragmatism and floats from one methodology to another while it cloaks behavioral modification – which essentially fools the self into the belief that the suppression or denial of “bad” impulses and longings equates to a transformation of desire – with the masquerade of obedience and change.
It follows, then, that the safeguarding behavior of a performance-centric mindset fails to develop self-control. Boundaries and safeguarding are established because an individual lacks confidence in the gift and supply of self-control that comes from God. Escapism and avoidance tactics appear to categorize as “discipline,” but simply block an opportunity to understand desire. The fear of desire prevents examination, both of the self, and of the desire. Agency and selection buoy self-control. Choice depends on a hierarchy of desire and pleasure – the immediate choice springs from the deepest longing. Self-control, then, is the process of choosing one desire over another. And, if desire is shut away entirely, self-control cannot act, nor blossom.
The safe-guarding behavior of a performance-centric mindset invites the crushing weight of disappointment. Inevitably, failure to measure up personal, societal, or religious standards will strike. Those whose performance dictates their status place themselves under the taxing and weary demands of Law. Such a mindset roots worth and valuation in performance, so poor performance breeds a self-loathing mentality full of self-hatred, and eventual transition into self-medication that compensates for the chronic ache of disappointment.
The performance-centric mindset fosters an incorrect view of self in light of the Gospel. Reactive questions and statements that follow failures, especially when chronic, may proceed as seen below:
“I cannot do this ever again.”
“God will surely punish me because I did this.”
“Have I done this one too many times?”
“Have I disqualified myself?”
Such reactions evince a mimetic, culturally-saturated, and ultimately inaccurate view of the Gospel. It reduces the all-sufficient, complete, and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross – which marks those who partake in the Quest by grace with the blood-stained definitive assurance of security and immediate and eternal holiness, to a catalytic encouragement and prod to strive and scratch just enough tallies in the column of goodness to thereby merit a share in the rewards and glory of the death and resurrection of Christ. Ironically, an attempt to obey this given understanding of the Gospel rejects critical aspects of a genuine knowledge of the true one.
Effects of a Gospel-Centric Mindset
A Gospel-centric mindset, through wisdom, liberates the individual from the constraints of the rigid structures of rule-following, cultural religiosity, and self-reliant behavior modification. The Gospel is this – “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1) – meaning, you are free to show the world just how free you are and how valuable Jesus Christ is. It grants an individual the responsibility to exercise their freedom with wisdom. King Solomon defined wisdom in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Bereft of the fear of the LORD, wisdom withers from a seedling and fails to take root – foolishness springs from the infecund soil of self-dependence. The fear of the LORD, as John Piper defines it, means “God is so powerful, and so holy, and so awesome that you would not dare to run away from him, but only run to him.” Wisdom begins with the fear of the LORD because he is Wisdom. When you run to him, you find him, and in him, Wisdom. Wisdom comes from the caverns of a man, from the depths of the soul – the Holy Spirit. When an individual runs to self-centered storehouses for strength, wisdom’s solace shrinks. Wisdom hides not in the self, but in the LORD, specifically, the Spirit, in the soul.
A Gospel-centric mindset liberates the individual from the constraints of the rigid structures of rule-following, cultural religiosity, and self-reliant behavior modification and develops self-control. Self-control, as previously defined, evaluates one desire over another, and always chooses the superior and the deeper, while rejecting even the appealing and the enticing. When an individual suppresses desire in the name of holiness, they lock themselves up, yet fail to grow in the holiness of self-control and joyful self-denial. If man relies on his own reservoir for the fortitude of self-control and sin stares him in the eyes, he shivers in fear – bereft of a superior pleasure, concedes and gives himself over. The Gospel, however, implants superior desires and deeper longings into the soul and etches the joy of the LORD, which comes from a genuine encounter with him, onto the heart. It is only from this that genuine self-control will blossom. Only with this superior longing – a longing that extends far beyond anything of this world – a longing for Home, will the heart churns to the rhythm of self-control.
A Gospel-centric mindset liberates the individual from the constraints of the rigid structures of rule-following, cultural religiosity, and self-reliant behavior modification and cultivates a joyful, genuine desire for submission to obedience. Humans long to feel desired and wanted because these mark us with value. Talent, attractiveness, or some aspect of personality or habit indicate value and worth in societal systems that aggregate status, and these are vital components of identity. The human being must be known, loved, and accepted to live in the fullness of freedom. When someone discovers or experiences acceptance, it affirms and signifies value. Shared feelings of value and treasure create a relationship ringed with joy and trust. In an ultimate dynamic of acceptance, the acceptor recognizes value and worth and pays any price and goes to any length for the sake of the other. Jesus went to the cross for his beloved – us. The accepted and the valued experiences security and love and wishes to return that to the other, as opposed to harm or hurt them. Such a dynamic cultivates a reason for a joyful, genuine desire for a submission to obedience.