What's Your Motivation?

May 01, 2024 by Colleen C Orchanian

When an actor is preparing for a role, they might ask themselves or the director, “What’s my motivation?” They want to know the backstory so they can play the part well.

Sometimes it’s good for us to ask that same question, especially when it comes to our conversations with others. Imagine you have a difficult situation and you want to talk to someone about it. Who will it be and why? You might wonder, if you talk to someone, are you gossiping? The Bible cautions us against that in 1 Timothy 5:13: Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. When I share a frustration, am I gossiping? Is it wrong? Is it a sin or not? One way to answer those questions is by asking, What’s my motivation?

There are many possible good motives:

I may want prayer for myself or the other person – or both. That is a holy desire.

I may need help thinking through a decision or what actions I should take. That is a holy desire. Others may have been through something similar and have wisdom to share.

I may want perspective on a situation. Something’s not right. I am stuck. I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall. Something unexpected happened in a relationship. In all of these situations, I can benefit from someone else’s perspective. I’m too close to the issue. That’s a holy desire, especially if I’m sincerely open to seeing my own faults through that perspective.

I may want to discern spirits. That’s when we consider the invisible spiritual battle that’s a constant in this life. If things are troubling at home, can I see where satan is trying to break down my marriage or cause discord in my family? If I’m working on a project for church, what obstacles is satan throwing my way? What voice am I listening to? Is it from God or satan? Exploring this question with another person is a very holy desire.

These are some of the good motives for sharing our frustrations and difficulties with others. But, many not-so-holy motives are often present. Consider these questionable motives:

For puffing up; making me feel good. My husband doesn’t appreciate me. Tell me I deserve the award for Wife of the Year.

For sympathy: My job is awful; my boss is an idiot. Tell me I deserve better and it’s right for me to feel this way.

Seeking allies: My colleague disagreed with me in a meeting. Tell me I am right and he was wrong.

Defending myself: I grounded my daughter and she talked about it to the whole world, or at least our part of the world. Tell me I am not as bad a mother as she says.

To punish: My girlfriend broke up with me. Let me tell you all of her secrets.

To vent: This is the most frustrating situation! Just let me talk and don't try to fix it.

You may find that you have more than one motive for a conversation – some holy and some not-so-holy. A negative motive doesn’t negate the positives. I may need to vent, but I also want some advice and prayer. When I’m in that situation of mixed motives, I often ask God to forgive the unworthy thoughts and hear only the good intentions – those motives pleasing to Him. If our motivation is only negative, that is a sign that we should follow the advice in James 3:7-10 to keep silent.

When we discern that our motivation is a good one, then we can consider who to engage in conversation. Who we share with matters. Who can receive what we need or want to give? In some cases, the person doesn’t have the nature to receive. In others, the consequences of sharing our hearts with them are not good. Here are some questions to consider about who to talk to.

Can they receive your emotions? There is a scene in A League of Their Own, which was a movie about an all-girls baseball team coached by Tom Hanks. In the scene, one of the players starts crying and the coach yells, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Some people don’t do well when another person is crying. Some are very uncomfortable when you share deeply from the heart. Maybe you can tell your mom anything but not your dad. So you question who can receive your emotions, your heart.

Can they be trusted with the information? Will they maintain confidentiality? It may not be that they deliberately violate your confidence. Sometimes the person is talkative. They don’t even think about the fact that it’s gossip or that they are violating your trust.

Can they be objective or will they only tell you what you want to hear? I loved my dad. He always took my side. He was never objective. If I wanted to feel good and right and encouraged, I would go to him. If I wanted objective feedback about where I might have failed, I had to go elsewhere. My husband is much better at being objective.

Can they give me the advice I need? This speaks to their skills and experience. If I have a legal question, I’ll go to someone who knows the law, not to my favorite auto mechanic. The person should have the expertise you need for the situation you’re experiencing.

Can they help me when I’m hurting? Does this person usually lift you up or bring you down? If you’re feeling broken, you want to choose someone to talk to who can help you heal.

Will they celebrate with me? We don’t limit our conversations to when things are bad or confusing. We also want someone to talk to about our joys – how God is working in our lives. Not everyone is open to that. I know someone who struggled with infertility. She said it was difficult to be excited for friends when they announced their pregnancy. She couldn’t celebrate with them because of her own pain. That’s understandable.

Conversations are tough – but beautiful and necessary and helpful if we are thoughtful about them. Consider your motive – what do you want from the conversation? Then purify your thoughts and desires. Choose a person who can receive you. And then share your heart.

What’s my motivation? That’s the starting point. Be honest about the holy motives and the not-so-holy ones. Bring it all to God. Let Him guide your conversations. As you follow His lead, you will bring more light into the world, more love into the world, and more peace into your heart. That’s the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Questions for prayer:

  • When recently have I desired to share my heart with someone? What, if any, concerns did I have? What was my motivation?

  • Who are the people most able to receive my heart conversations?