Mere Information Is Not Sufficient

Most of us overestimate the power of information. Telling others what to do, or pleading with them to do something, does not compel deep or lasting change. For instance, at five feet, eleven inches tall I used to weight about 330 pounds. I was seriously round. I shopped in the big section of the Big and Tall shop. Friends said things like, “Is that your belt or the equator?” They addressed me playfully as “Your Circumference!”

Telling others what to do, or pleading with them to do something, does not compel deep or lasting change.

But calling attention to my girth or describing potential health problems didn’t change my eating habits. I was medicating pain with food. I was using food to entertain myself. I was using food to distract myself from anxiety. Those rewards were much more powerful than the information coming from weighing myself on a scale or from the remarks of people who loved me and wanted the best for me.

What finally broke through to me was answering some thoughtful questions put to me by a competent counselor. This gently led me to insights about my relationship to food, and about the inner realities that drove my addiction to it. Mere information usually is not sufficient to produce deep change. Neither is its cousin: pleading for change.

As a young baseball player I had lots of experience with family and friends sitting in the stands behind home plate and loudly encouraging me with comments like, “Come on Todd, watch the ball!” I had heard this so much by the time I was in high school, I wanted to yell back, “What do you think I am doing here? Watching the birds in the sky? Checking out the pitcher’s socks?”

I was trying to watch the ball! I needed an insightful coach to train me to actually watch the ball. This happened while playing for a great coach in college. He said, “Todd, next time you are up to bat, try to observe which way the red stitches on the ball are spinning.” It changed the way I hit the ball.

Mere information usually is not sufficient to produce deep change. Neither is its cousin: pleading for change.

For facilitating human change, yelling commands like “Watch the ball!” to a baseball player or “Quit being a jerk!” to a boss are seriously ineffective. But coaching questions, such as, “What did you notice about your heart or state of mind when Mr. Rude spoke up at the meeting?” accelerate human transformation.

Our Character At Work, pp. 112-113 – Todd Hunter

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Are You Listening?

Our task in the coming season: listen for the Spirit to teach us about how to be faithful followers of Jesus in the ordinary, but difficult times in which we live.

The challenging days in which we live are nothing new: listen to this prayer from The Dark Ages (7th century).

Hear us O never-failing Light, Lord our God, our only light, the fountain of light…May our souls be lamps of yours, sparked and illuminated by you. May our souls shine and burn with the truth, and never go out in darkness and ashes. May we be shining from your light, may our lamps be burning and not be extinguished. Being filled with the splendor of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we shine forth inwardly; may the gloom of sins be cleared away, and the light of perpetual faith abide with us.

Listen to the associated sermon.  Click here.


Consumption Reveals My Truest Desires

My friend and mentor, Dallas Willard, was a professional philosopher who loved as a hobby, so to speak, the intersection of philosophy and science. From that lifelong consideration he once said to me: every advance in human history is simultaneously and ethical and spiritual challenge.

To understand what Dallas meant by this, let’s work our way forward from ancient history:

  • The discovery of the usefulness of fire to light a room or cook food—but it didn’t take long for sinful people to realize that they could also torture people with the pain of fire or that they could burn down the village huts of those they hated, those they had contempt for, those they had dehumanized.
  • The creation of the wheel and it usefulness to carry heavy stones to build a building or to get a large animal home from the hunting ground—but again, soon enough, broken humanity figured that they could also get rocks to their enemies to stone them.

We could go on in this light from the industrial revolution (think the horrors of what machines did in WW1), to the technological revolution, and up to today. Do we love people well enough to actually embrace globalization—I think not. Do global markets work well? Not from a Christ and his kingdom point of view—to much of it based on using others, not serving them.

Again, we could go on and on about the various ways technology and connectivity is used both for good and evil. This is why I quoted (I think Archibald Hart), that study after study shows us that too much entertainment actually makes us profoundly bored and even depressed. In that depressed state we are either too weak or too distracted to embrace the ordinary wonders of life.*

Thinking along these lines does not require that we come to think of entertainment as bad. The focus of my thinking is not outward to vendors, it is inward to my own consumption. Why? Because my consumption reveals my truest desires—and sometimes those desires are disordered. And that takes me right back to my pursuit of Jesus and his apprentice that he might rightly order my desires…

– Todd Hunter

*Listen to the full sermon – Object of God’s Love

Resurrection Sight