A coach with whom I once spent a great deal of time said on numerous occasions “insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result.” In the context of athletics, the truth of his claim was painfully obvious each year when players persisted in the same training behaviors (or more frequently, lack of training) and expected to become better players.
In my own life I find many ways this saying holds true as I continually wish to lose weight but persist in eating potato chips, M&M cookies, and pizza hoping someday those foods will magically cause my metabolism to speed up and consume the increasing quantities of fat that I have accumulated. I want to be different, I have to change my behavior.
Most of us (all of us?) can’t change on our own, we need someone to help us, teach us, and lead us out of insanity and into a better life. Within the world of athletics and dieting there are more coaches than the mind can comprehend. More frequently than not they are faddish, coming into prominence only for a short period of time before quickly disappearing never to be remembered or consulted again. Thus, it is important to find those teachers whose guidance persists over a long time and with success. This may sound easy but it is difficult to find the true gems, though they are out there if you have the time and patience.
This same principle applies in the bigger questions of life such as how to conquer anger, lust, greed, gluttony, and other aspects of our sin nature. We think if we only try harder we can overcome our own sin, but it never works because doing the same thing over and over leads to the same results and to futility and brokenness.
Eventually, we begin searching for others who can help. We read books written by modern day “self-help” gurus and listen to hip and cool podcasts. We talk to our friends, our neighbors, our pastors, and the all-knowing all-wise Facebook community. Each of these might actually provide good advice, but over time we find most of it becomes dated and ineffectual.
While we actively pursue teaching and leading from others, we passively fill our minds with the useless drivel found in the modern media. We tell ourselves “it’s just entertainment” ignoring the fact that everything we take in through our senses accumulates in our mind and attaches to our character. We watch shows elevating lust then wonder why we give into temptation when it appears. We listen to music promoting anger and racism then wonder why we are filled with hate. We constantly idolize luxury goods and luxurious lifestyles but don’t have a clue why we are dissatisfied with our own life.
We continually do the same thing, over and over again, expecting a different result. We are, by my fellow coach’s definition, insane.
I am not one to always say “older is better” but I think this is one of those instances where old wisdom is best. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says: “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” How often do we sit around discussing scripture? How often do we talk about God while taking an evening walk? Before falling asleep, where does our mind go? When we wake, what are we thinking about?
I think it is these questions the Psalmist was answering in Psalm 25. He realizes, like so few of us do, that it is only the Lord in whom he can put his trust, and it is only the Lord’s teaching that will help him change his ways (vv. 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 20).
I know this sounds like the “Jesus is the answer” answer, but in reality, what other teacher is there? Who else knows the human heart like its creator? Who else understands redemption? Who else knows has given himself to change us?
I’ve titled my blog “On the Foothills” because we are all fellow travelers trying to sort out how best to live this life we have been given. It is good to learn from one another, but we must not forget we are on the foothills of a mountain. There is one who is the mountain. He is the infinite one who can and will teach us how to live. He will instruct us in his ways. He will release us from the snare of our old habits so we can be truly free. But we have to listen to his still small voice and we have to listen every day. Listening to anyone else is just insane.