Posts tagged “Sermon on the Mount

Assume that People Do Their Best? Is that Possible?

Some thoughts from Mark Landry’s (not so) completely. miserable. blog. His latest post, titled Some (painful-for-me) Thoughts on Letting People Off the Hook, began like this –

I’ve learned something recently, something that I know will change my life if I can get my head around it, something I wish I would have realized 20 years ago, but nobody was talking about things like this when I was 30.  If I could fax my younger self I’d say without hesitation – master this.

Brene Brown, in one of her recent books “Rising Strong,” relates some powerful advise from a friend:

Steve said, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” His answer felt like truth to me. Not an easy truth, but truth.

This sounded great, so I tried it.  Massive fail.  I don’t have it in me.  I’ve built an entire world around judging others, comparing myself to others, using the “laziness” of others to make myself feel good, labeling people based on what they have or haven’t accomplished in their lives.

It feels good to tear someone down.  It makes us feel valuable, ironically, when we take someone’s value away.   But ultimately I have to put myself under the same microscope, which is especially hard these days.  I”m a washed up, has-been pastor, now a stay at home dad.  Not much in my life to tout.  All the judgments, all the “can you believe that guy” thoughts that I’ve used to create my little accomplishment-based caste system have come back to haunt me.  In spades.  Over and again I come up just as short as everyone else.

“It makes us feel valuable, ironically, when we take someone’s value away.”

Along with Mark Landry, I have been thinking a lot recently about the damage of criticism. Glasser rated criticism as the most damaging of the Deadly Habits, the most disconnecting of the “disconnectors.” Passages I am reading in a little book called Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing has reinforced Glasser’s concern regarding the effects of criticism. The people of Jesus’ day, the little book points out, “reflected the spirit of their religious leaders as they intruded on the conscience of others and judged each other in matters that are between the soul and God.”

A cover of the little book, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, which is based on what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7.

A cover of the little book, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, which is based on what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7.

It was in reference to this spirit and practice that Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1), and which the little book further explains –

That is, do not make your opinions, your views of duty, your interpretations of Scripture, a criterion for others and in your heart condemn them if they do not come up to your ideal. Do not criticize others, conjecturing as to their motives and passing judgment upon them.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 178

Once again, I am reminded of the similar emphasis of these two disparate authors – Ellen White and William Glasser – the first a spiritual author at the turn of the 20th century and the second a secular author at the turn of the 21st century. Glasser would have resonated with Ellen’s statement, for instance, that –

“The sin that leads to the most unhappy results is a cold, critical, unforgiving spirit.”  Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 181


It is especially interesting to me just how far the damage of a critical spirit can reach, and how powerful that damage can be. Our personal relationships are hurt when criticism is present, often deeply, but we also need to remember how the spirit of criticism can affect an organization’s atmosphere, and in particular a leader’s strategy within that organization. Religious leaders and churches do not draw a pass here. In fact, it is just the opposite. In the passage that follows, Ellen White describes how criticism morphs into control, and how laws and persecution are the sure result. She writes –

When men indulge this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother. If milder means fail of making him do what they think ought to be done, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power they will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done ever since whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.

Christ does not drive but draws men unto Him. The only compulsion which He employs is the constraint of love. When the church begins to seek for the support of secular power, it is evident that she is devoid of the power of Christ–the constraint of divine love.  Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 182

Christ does not drive but draws men unto Him.
The only compulsion which He employs is the constraint of love.

Love is the answer, and always has been. Yet how strong the pull is to coerce loved ones into complying with our ideas of what is right. Whether organizationally or individually, though, whenever the spirit of criticism rules the results are disastrous. May we keep from criticizing, judging, blaming, and forcing others to accept our ideas, especially if we are in any way associated with religion.


I have been receiving a lot of positive feedback on the last post, Desks as Cars. Check it for a great idea about teaching Choice Theory to children.


If you have read Glasser’s biography, Champion of Choice, would you take a moment and write a review that I can share as part of The Better Plan blog? Sales of the book have been slow in the U.S. Let’s do what we can to let others know of Glasser’s life and ideas.

The Be-Attitudes and Choice Theory

Beatitudes (2)

What if the Beatitudes, the famous “Blessed are they .  . ” statements found in Matthew 5, were written with choice theory in mind? While preparing to teach a class whose topics for the period included the Beatitudes, a class in the process of considering scripture from a choice theory perspective, I made an attempt at re-writing them from the viewpoint of mental health. The Amplified Bible, instead of using the phrase “Blessed are they . . “, uses phrases like “Happy are they .  .” or “To be envied are those .  . ” or “Spiritually prosperous are those .  . ”  I remember hearing a talk on the Beatitudes where the speaker explained that the word Blessed, as used by Jesus to open his hillside sermon, actually means Happy in the broadest sense. So in the spirit of considering the Beatitudes from a choice theory perspective .  .  .

Mentally healthy are those who recognize their need for God.

Mentally healthy are those who recognize the needs of others around them and who ache for their healing – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Mentally healthy are those who are gentle; who do not seek power for personal advantage; who understand that the only person I can (need to, should) control is myself; who understand the value of every human being.

Mentally healthy are those who crave what is good and just, and who seek justice on behalf of those who are less able to seek it for themselves.

Mentally healthy are those who accept others and who live forgivingly.

Mentally healthy are those who are fresh and clean and who breath Heaven’s air, rather than the vice and impurity of this present world; who are free to seek happiness, rather than addicted to pursuing pleasure.

Mentally healthy are those who desire peace; who are willing to give up pieces of what they want; who seek other’s success; who live win/win.

Mentally healthy are those who value doing right so much that they are willing to be mistreated and abused for its sake.

May each of us experience sound mental health today. As Paul reminds us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.” II Timothy 1:7

One day is ours — Today!


I want to give a shout-out to Gretchen Rubin and The Happiness Project (You can access her blog and website at  I receive a quotation about being happy every morning from The Happiness Project and one of these quotes very much resonated with choice theory. It went like this –

“There is almost one time that is important – Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time we have any power.”    Leo Tolstoy

Reality therapy is based on the belief that all problems are present problems. Something in our past may have influenced our behavior, but we can only deal with what’s happening in our lives right now. Choice theory states that the only person we can control is ourselves. Similarly, that control is always in the present, in the now, as Tolstoy would say it. William Glasser understood as well as anyone the importance of living in the present. The past is past, gone, nothing we can do to change it, and the future isn’t here yet, but we can affect the now, the present.

Glasser didn’t formulate reality therapy or choice theory from a spiritual perspective. He believed such views made sense and would best contribute to mental health, but his views weren’t based on scripture. At least he wasn’t aware of a scriptural tie-in. As it turned out, though, living life in the present is very scriptural. In the Sermon on the Mount, after explaining that His Father will give us everything we need, Jesus further assured us with, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

Commenting on Matthew 6:34, a little book called Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing encourages us to embrace the principle of today. Let these words sink into your heart, soak in them, be at peace.

   When we take into our hands the management of things with which we have to do, and depend upon our own wisdom for success, we are taking a burden which God has not given us, and are trying to bear it without His aid. We are taking upon ourselves the responsibility that belongs to God, and thus are really putting ourselves in His place. We may well have anxiety and anticipate danger and loss, for it is certain to befall us. But when we really believe that God loves us and means to do us good we shall cease to worry about the future. We shall trust God as a child trusts a loving parent. Then our troubles and torments will disappear, for our will is swallowed up in the will of God.

   Christ has given us no promise of help in bearing today the burdens of tomorrow. He has said, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Corinthians 12:9); but, like the manna given in the wilderness, His grace is bestowed daily, for the day’s need. Like the hosts of Israel in their pilgrim life, we may find morning by morning the bread of heaven for the day’s supply.

   One day alone is ours, and during this day we are to live for God. For this one day we are to place in the hand of Christ, in solemn service, all our purposes and plans, casting all our care upon Him, for He careth for us. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” “In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.” Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 30:15.         Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 100, 101

One day alone is ours – today!

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