Volume 2, Issue 1, January 1995


Why do we act the way we do? What motivates us to follow a particular occupation, belong to a certain religion, or join a specific club? Are we victims of destiny? Are we pawns in some cosmic game? Are we random events in a chaotic universe?

Do we do what we do for love? Power? Fear? Vengeance?
Here's an exercise to help search out our motivations:

1) Take a piece of paper and write the words work, play, love, God, relationships, money and power.

2) Write your top three priorities for each word.

3) Ask yourself about each priority: "Why do I do it?" "How do I do it?" "How committed to it am I?" "Would I like to do more of this or less?"

4) Now ask yourself, "What else is going on with this?" "Do I have a hidden agenda or vested interest in this that I don't show to others and sometimes don't admit to myself?" You will probably uncover some startling answers.

The purpose of an exercise like this is to discover thoughts, concerns, feelings and emotions that are below the surface of our daily awareness. These thoughts and feelings can affect our actions and health. They can be the source of unexplained hesitation or anxiety that recurs without warning.

As we become increasingly willing to live on a spiritual plane, our motives in many areas gradually change. In the past when we were charitable to others, for example, it was usually with the expectation of receiving something in return.

We frequently give to others in order to look good and win their approval. We offer gifts as a way to gain control, or buy favours. We are givers out of a sense of obligation, or because we need to get off the hook.

When we grow spiritually we become free of self-centredness and self-seeking. We find we want to - indeed, we must - be honest, above board, and pure in motive in all our affairs.

People in every culture are taught almost from infancy the difference between right and wrong. We learn that it is "right" to be honest, courteous, and kind, and it is "wrong" to lie, steal, or be hurtful to others. As children, our primary motivation in acting rightly is the avoidance of punishment. Later on we're generally motivated by conscience as well as the customs of society.

As we grow spiritually our awarenesses expand and intensify. We see more clearly how our actions and occasional compromises affect our lives and the lives of others. Consequently, we understand right and wrong in an entirely new way. We practice honesty, patience, and tolerance, for example, because they work in our lives.

Because of our new understanding and more highly developed motives, we do what is right in order to feel better about ourselves, to enable us to feel comfortable with ourselves, and because our spiritual growth depends on it.

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"Religion NOW" is published in limited edition by the Rev. Ross E. Readhead, B.A., B.D., Certificate of Corrections, McMaster University, in the interest of furthering knowledge and participation in religion. Dialogue is invited and welcomed.