Bad ideas=Bad living

People will live bad lives to whatever extent they have adopted bad ideas.  Dr. Phil has popularized the saying, “How’s that working for you?” In other words, when you do such and such thing, which comes from such and such belief, notion, or idea, what is the usual result and is it making your life better?

People will live bad lives to whatever extent they have adopted bad ideas.

This is no new discovery. The Bible is full of passages and verses that talk about the importance of belief, the mind, and thinking in certain ways. Thirty years ago Aaron Beck founded a school of psychology called Cognitive Psychology. Cognitive Psychology begins with the assumption that most dysfunction in human life stems from faulty ideas (beliefs). Beck correctly states that if you can change a person’s ideas, you can change his behavior, because people will live bad lives to whatever extent they have adopted bad ideas.

The longer I am pastor at Wildwind and the longer I work with people in the counseling office, the truer I realize this is. The fundamental problem with people is that they often build their lives on bad ideas.  And bad ideas are no respecter of persons.  They tend to produce bad lives in those who build their lives on them, whether people identify themselves as religious or non-religious.  Either way, when we build our lives on bad ideas, they will eventually bring the consequences and difficulties bad ideas always bring. Show me a person struggling with problems in life and I can probably show you a person who has embraced (usually without consciously thinking about and understanding it) bad ideas.

Bad idea: I deserve to have fun toys in life.
Corresponding behavior: Debt spending to acquire fun things.
Consequence: Chronic financial instability and its corresponding effects, such as depression, anxiety, and aimlessness.

Bad idea: My spouse should meet all my needs.
Corresponding behavior: Selfish behaviors of all sorts.
Consequences: A spouse who feels drained and unappreciated and is unable to meet any needs at all.

Bad idea: I should always feel excited about my life.
Corresponding behavior: Drug-taking, dangerous sexual relationships, criminal involvement, pushing limits of all kinds to get a thrill [choose one or more]
Consequences: Physical issues, relationship problems, legal problems, etc.

My church, Wildwind Community Church, is based in part on our belief that people are messing up their lives because they have accepted bad ideas and are therefore behaving in unproductive ways, and then experiencing the consequences of these behaviors.  The problem, of course, is that the trend in society now is a turn away from declaring ideas bad or good.  People, we say, have the “right” to whatever ideas they have.  Which of course is true, but that does not mean all ideas are equally good.

Ideas become behaviors and behaviors have consequences, for good or ill, depending on the quality of the idea.  As I wrote in yesterday’s post, the difficulty is that many people have rejected the ancient sources of wisdom regarding what ideas are bad and what ideas are good, and so we are adrift, with each person doing what is right in his/her own eyes, not really having understanding about which ideas are ultimately good and which are ultimately not good.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Scott Christensen

    Thanks Dave. You have reminded me of something that I used to help keep my life in order. I’ve been running on autopiolet lately (years), being reactionary to events in life instead of taking inventory of decisions and outcomes. It is amazing how getting a little off track can have big repercussions downstream in life.

  • Bryan

    “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Winston Churchill.

    This freedom we’ve been blessed with also provides us with the means to make horrible decisions. The founders were idealists, and saw the US as a place for disillusioned immigrants to live without the heavy hand of old world governments interfering through excessive taxation and religious oppression.

    We have the freedom to reach spectacular heights and horrific lows. The libertarian in me feels (mostly) that the government should step out of the way of citizens and let them do as they wish – as long as they don’t infringe upon others. I believe we do have the right to self destruct, as sad as that is, and the government shouldn’t be in the business of saving us from ourselves (that is your job, Dave, lol!) If I don’t want to wear my seatbelt, and I’m an adult, why should the government force me to? So what if I want to eat a heaping plate of deep fried trans fats for dinner every night? I must bear the consequences, and it doesn’t affect anyone except those who had the misfortunate of being my friends or family! But sparing the feelings of those who love you isn’t a valid reason for governmental interference into our lifestyles.

    Would the founders agree with that? Perhaps. The country at the time of its founding was mostly a nation of farmers who kept to themselves. Shame was much more effective back then, and was an oft used tool to enforce civil behavior! People relied upon close social networks of family and friends to support each other, not the government. I think today’s climate of victimization and selfishness would turn their stomachs.

    • I agree with absolutely everything you have said, Brian. Our government provides (and should provide) freedom for people to do reprehensible things, self-destruct, etc. God certainly provides us with that freedom.

      My point has been simply that saying, “Do whatever you want” is a terrible personal philosophy of life, and that Christianity does not carry a notion of rights. Christianity is based (or should be based) in the principal of universal love. If I follow that principal faithfully (and that’s a big if and a tall order), two things happen. In regard to myself, I will live for something other (i.e., “better,” or “higher”) than fulfillment of my own whims and desires. In regard to others, I will increasingly act toward people in ways that are worthy of the dignity of human beings created in the image of God. I do not exploit them or use them for my own gain. I do not hide behind the political notion of “rights” to excuse my moral recklessness and irresponsibility.

      What I’m really talking about is self-regulation. If a person says, “Do whatever you want as long as it’s not illegal,” (or implies it, or believes it, or thinks that’s a good idea), he/she has pretty much abandoned self-regulation in favor of adopting the external regulation of government as the only restraint on his/her choices and behavior.

      I never meant to imply that we should not have the legal right to make bad choices and hold bad ideas. I have simply maintained that those who call themselves followers of the greatest proponent of universal love (Jesus) have willingly placed themselves under that constraint, and for them this is not about rights.

      • Bryan

        Great thoughts, well put, Dave!

        Too many of us have forfeited spiritually / morally guided self control and have instead chosen to dwell on the fringes of illegality / immorality, believing that avoiding the line of legal enforcement is sufficient (Rogan’s Hypothesis). You have eloquently refuted that flawed logic.

  • I certainly never said Christ followers have a right to bad ideas! The concept of “rights,” is not even a Christian concept. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have the concept in a pluralistic society, or that rights don’t serve a useful purpose in government, just that our very understanding of ourselves as servants negates the idea of rights, in a spiritual sense.

    • Bryan

      Our country’s founders believed that rights were granted by God and that laws established by man merely protected those rights.

      • I think it goes beyond question that the best form of government is one that grants to its citizens the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But it is critical on an individual level for persons to think seriously about what these are, what they mean, and how they are best pursued. I believe that saying, “What the f**k, do whatever you want,” (see post Holes in the Gospel of Joe) is pretty shallow thinking. That’s certainly not what the founders had in mind. There are problems here both with the conclusion itself, and the flippancy with which so many people arrive at that conclusion.

        Of course it is my opinion that the only way a person COULD arrive at such a conclusion is flippantly, since serious thought about what truly makes for good living would make that conclusion pretty unlikely.

      • Incidentally, perhaps that’s why you’ve never heard a philosopher or public policy maker say “F**k it everybody – it’s a free country – do whatever you want as long as you don’t break any laws.” I believe thinking seriously on this topic for even a few minutes rules out the possibility of that conclusion.

  • Dana

    People say that they have a “right “to whatever ideas that they have, but as Christ followers do we have a “right” to bad ideas? Does not Paul tell us as Christ followers what our ideas should be centered upon in Phil 4:8? “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
    To avoid the bad ideas and the consequences that come from proceeding to act on the bad ideas, does it not come back to what are filling our minds with? Does it not come back to practicing the on the things that are of God?