Our Fixation on Behavior misses the Heart of the Matter

It could be you and it could be me…the other day it was a Vancouver man.

Behavior, behavior. Everybody wants to see us having good behavior.

It feels that way coming from our government too. Put on your mask. Social distance. Do as your told. Keep in line. Behave like good citizens. Don’t question the stats. Don’t think too much, just obey.

And the list of rules how to live life gets longer and longer. In business, finance, health, worship, buying food, eating out, etc…the list of rules increase. “Breaking news…another government official is going to make an announcement.” Code for: hungry for power; need more rules. Gag.

And by the way, if you see someone not obeying, point them out… make them feel ashamed. ‘How dare you step out of line?!?’

Check out this news post:


Behavior is a reflection of what’s going on in our heart. Clearly in this Vancouver man’s heart there is a disruption…he is upset. And it revolved around one of our basic needs… food. And access to it. And feeling a major disconnect in having access to it.

Obviously the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Let me say first off, that I am not condoning this behavior. Or any kind of freaking out at someone if something doesn’t go our way.

Obviously there was a misunderstanding between those on the receiving end where the food was prepared and to be picked up, and this fellow who was supposed to pick up his food but was denied.
It’s not clear why he didn’t take the bag or if the bag was offered him but then denied because he’s not wearing a mask. Whatever the case, there’s a major discrepancy which resulted in this man exploding. He lost it.

If we’re honest with ourselves, maybe this fellow represents how many of us feel. Ready to pop. We’ve been pushed to the limit with this whole Covid thing and its ripple effects.

Probably many of us have acted similar in the past… loosing our temper, in one situation or another…for whatever reason we thought at the time. With some introspection it becomes difficult to say or think, “I would never act like that.”

And we’ve probably had to eat some humble pie coming away from our troublesome actions, whatever situation tipped us over the edge.

But let’s be clear. No one of us can tout from our podium, “This is unacceptable!” without grounding this assessment.

And yet this is what we see happening, government and all.

The situation.

We are quick to call the shots on what we think is ‘bad behavior’. And the government looks over and proclaims ’tisk tisk’…this is unacceptable; ‘how disgusting this behavior is’. We should just ‘be kinder to one another’ says the premier of BC.

My question is…Why?

On what basis can the government say this? On what grounds does the government say we need to be kind to one another? Do we not realize to ask to be kind is to ask to love?

In a world where relative truth reigns, maybe yelling swear words at people is a way of dealing with life. Maybe that’s the truth claimed in the moment. Isn’t this what we want as society? An individual right to claim whatever truth we want that works for us in the moment or in the situation?

And get this. In a society that continues down the path of individual relative truths as sufficient, you will find an increasing list of rules to control that society which has unhitched from eternal truths which connect us and anchor us at a much deeper level.

You see, deep abiding truths have the potential to guide and guard the heart.

We claim relative truth yet we somehow want to cling to abiding truth. We can’t have both.

‘Be kind to one another’ needs to be grounded in much more than just a reprimand for bad behavior.

This is the heart of the matter.

Long ago our government and society unhitched from deep, heartfelt, abiding truths. Years later it seems that much of what we are left with is a growing list of rules on how to behave.

Do we witness a government that is acting in kindness towards us? Do we witness a government that is looking out to serve us for our best interest? Do we witness a government appealing to eternal, abiding truths – like love and kindness – from outside of ourselves?

I can’t agree more that we need to be kind to one another. But by what authority can the government now say ‘we need to be kinder to each other’? On what basis? (Maybe they’ll just make being kind to one another rule.)

And I get a little confused when the government (and much of the general public) is so quick to shame someone for bad behavior when it’s often forgotten that what we most dislike in others, is a representation of who we might be at our worst. And that makes us uncomfortable. So we criticize it and smugly say….’I’d never act like that.’

Plus there’s a deflection of any circumstantial responsibility in situations like this outburst.

How about pondering for a moment…

I wonder what it’s like to live under so many government rules… behavioral rules?!? I wonder what might be going on in this man’s life (or anyone’s life) that caused him to explode? I wonder what his story is? I wonder if we’ve pushed people too far? Are we blame shifting? I wonder what abiding truths we need to re-instate to hold us together at a deeper level? Could we go for heart change rather than behavioral?

I wonder if we might extend a little grace when dealing with each other? I wonder if grace and government can even end up in the same sentence.

Kindness, grace, love…these are not innate to us. They come from an external source. The Source of deep abiding truth.

That Source is GOD.

(And the last I checked, the government and society don’t want much of GOD in the equation.)

That’s right. GOD. And this grounds us. It’s not possible from within on ourselves. 

Don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it. 
Take God’s own word for it. This is the highest authority we can appeal to.

Well-known verses that come from the Bible, GOD’s Word, include:

“Love is kind.” 

“We love because he loved us first.”

“God is love.” This is not all God is, but it is part of the essence of who He is.

He is also holy and just.

And God acted justly in love and kindness towards saving a lost and broken world… John 3:16, 17:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

John 3:16, 17

And here’s what is prone to come out of us without a work of God in our life. In the words of Jesus:

“For from within, out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.” Mark 7:20-23


Justice had to be served for all sin, but love and mercy triumphed and as justice was served. A way became open for us to live differently.

Jesus came to not only change behaviors, but to change our hearts….hearts that desperately need it.

Forgiveness of sin in Jesus is available for all who believe in His saving work on the cross, and He creates a new heart within us from which can flow love and kindness toward God and fellow humans by His Spirit power working change within us. Grounding us in a Source outside of ourselves.

It has been said, Jesus did not come to make bad people good (the behavioral fixation of our society), but Jesus came to make dead people ALIVE (the heart change needed, from dead in sin, to alive in Christ).

And included in being ALIVE is a recognition of how low we can fall unless saved and changed by the work of Jesus in our hearts and lives.

Once we recognize that any one of us can fall ‘out of line’ at any time, including loosing our cool, when left to ourselves even for a moment, we can so much easier extend grace to someone else when they fall in whatever way, including loosing their cool.

We may not know someone else’s back story. So we may indeed have to extend a little grace. And they may not know or have met the saving and life-giving, changing power of Jesus.

And if you haven’t… be introduced to Jesus today and the abiding truths that flow out of him. All truth is sourced in Him. He himself said, “I am the Way, THE TRUTH, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.

This is quite different from our societal, governmental approach, with a fixation on behaviors and missing the heart of the matter. Claiming truths with no anchoring, and forgetting that the heart is deceitful above all things…and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). Unless GOD through Jesus steps in.

And He has. And the Way is now open.

Moving Forward

So dear premiers, all governing authorities, and people of this land, if you are going to respond to a man for lashing out, certainly do it with grace bearing in mind that you and I are only one bad decision away from our own downfall, were it not for the grace of God.

And maybe you and I have acted this way in the past! Thank God for forgiveness!

Maybe think about how many others might be under immense stress right now, and how might you as governing authorities alleviate some of that stress. Rather than point the finger at an outburst of frustration, take some of the blame for it.

And if we are going to appeal to kindness, and a ‘doing unto others as you’d have done to you’ approach (referred to as the ‘golden rule’), then first of all, lead by example and second, remember the Source outside of ourselves. Appeal to and acknowledge the Biblical source which anchors all abiding truths like love and kindness, truths that have enduring power, much beyond a temporal governing power.

Yes, we must admit there are enduring abiding truths we can claim. Relative truth leaves us unhitched, wanting, shifting…and chasing after behaviors.

And how about moving people a little closer to a real capacity for heart change, through the enduring, transforming work of Jesus, the One who is Truth in person.

Look into His work that conditions the hearts of the people in your nation towards these truths and do everything in your power to bring us just a little closer to it.

That goes much farther than a tisk tisk public ‘behavioral shaming’ and an apparent holding up your nose as if you never had or never would act like what we’ve have witnessed in our fellow Canadian Vancouver man, and may witness in many more.

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