Devotional – Predicting Responses

Mark 11:31-33 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.) 33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

It’s interesting to me how often a group of very educated people can’t come up with a simple answer to a basic question. Election day was yesterday and whatever side of the aisle you fall on, we can all probably agree that politicians in general use way too many words to ultimately not say very much of substance. Trying to please everyone, quite often leads to what I like to call mamby-pamby speech. Basically, not taking a hard stand on anything for fear that it will turn people off.

It’s exactly the same problem the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders had when dealing with a straightforward question from Jesus. They didn’t want to answer one way, because then Jesus would have a good retort. They didn’t want to confirm the other side of the coin because then they’d make people upset. So they said “I dunno?”.  It’s also a problem I struggle with when dealing with difficult people in relationships.

Sometimes I go to a place of anticipating all that could be taken badly in what I say or do. There’s a running dialogue in my head that goes something like this “Well, if I don’t (insert whatever I’m vacillating about)…they’ll think I’m excluding them. But if I do (flip side)…they might be upset about x.y.z.” I try to figure out how people are going to respond, and the best way to make all concerned happy. Ultimately, trying to predict other people’s responses is pretty much pointless. I’m not them. I don’t know what is going through their minds. So how on earth can I figure out if what I’m about to do is or is not going set them off? I can’t. And I shouldn’t even try.

Now, I’m not saying you should be harsh or brash in dealing with others. I’m just putting it out there that maybe if we all just said and did what we felt was right, instead of what we thought would earn us the most “people pleasing points”, we’d have a lot more peace. We would be able to just be honest. Say and do what we feel in our hearts we should. And let the other person be responsible for their own reaction. And, instead of trying to unravel why someone said something or if they really meant it “that way” – we could just ask? I know it seems crazy, but what if the elders and priests had just picked one answer or the other? What if they’d said what they thought, instead of trying not to say the wrong thing, and thus saying nothing at all? Maybe Jesus would have responded with an amazing truth, opened a little bit more of heaven for them to see? Who knows? Nobody. Because they gave a non-answer, and in return, the Lord didn’t answer them either.

I think I’ve become afraid of ruffling feathers and try to predict responses too much in life. God has things He wants to teach and show me that I can only learn through dealing with the fallout of relational decisions. If I shy away from scenarios where I cannot control the outcome, I’ll never know what God might have in store for me within those events. I’m going to try just responding to whatever God puts in my life…without making any predictions about what’s going to happen as a result.

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