Motivating For The Narrow Way: Carrots and Sticks


Matthew 12: 43 “Now when the unclean spirit comes out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept clean, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they come in and live there; and the last condition of that person becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
One may push negative influences out of her life (the Purgative Way) to get “clean”. But such a way alone, while it may bring temporary relief from pain and chaos, it will not bring the joy and peace in life that can be sustained long term. Nature, both physical and spiritual, abhors a vacuum. Something will eventually fill that space again. In life recovery, we call that “relapse.” To accomplish long lasting joy and peace, one must identify the values, goals, and a “more excellent way” (the Illuminative Way) that leads to a personal sense of worth, connectedness, and productive abundant living. When one’s journey leads to experiencing the things that satisfy the deep longing of the soul, the Unitive Way will have become a sustainable path. Dr. Henry Cloud points out the difference between using a moral demand to motivate change (the proverbial “stick” and its accompanying resistance, rebellion, anger, and shame) compared to using a desirable vision (the “carrot”). Is our focus on resisting the demands of others or pursuing the desires of our hearts? At Titus 2 we use values education, emotional literacy, biblical principles instruction, mentoring, boundaries development, and non-judgmental supportive community to help individuals create for themselves a new vision for their lives that brings hope, gratitude, and improved choices.
Wisdom from Dr. Henry Cloud……
“There are two basic ways to motivate people to change (but these aren’t the only ways). You have the “religious” way and the “reality” way. In the religious way we tell people they should do the right thing because it is the right thing and it is wrong not to do the right thing. But being “right” has never been a very strong motivator for people to change. They have always been more interested in doing things “their” way than the “right” way. The other problem with the “religious” way is the human response to “should.” When we tell people they “should do this and that” because it is right, they naturally rebel. Remember how the apostle Paul puts it: “Once I was alive apart from law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death” (Rom. 7:9—11). Something about being under the commandments — the “shoulds” — inspires the sinful nature to rebel. When someone says, “You should be good,” we will find a way to be bad.
Paul tells us to give up this approach, and he reaffirms the “reality” way. He does not tell people to do the right thing just to be good or because it is right. He tells them to do it so that they will live. As he says a little later, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). To live—to have the life we desire—we have to live according to God’s ways. It’s reality. It’s effective!
It is truly amazing to see what happens in people’s lives when they shift from seeing the right way as something they “should” do to seeing it as the only way they will have life. “