Black-and-white thinking sees all of life in terms of great extremes. The two foundational words that characterize the vocabulary of black-and-white thinkers are “never” and “always.” See if any of the following statements resonate with you.
- I “always” get the short end of the stick!
- I “never” have time to enjoy life!
- People “always” let me down!
- My spouse “never” surprises me anymore!
- You “never” pay attention to my anymore!
- This relationship will “never” work out!
- My boss is “never” satisfied with my performance!
- My children “never” appreciate what I do for them!
- You will “never” amount to anything in life!
The list is endless for these two popular polar opposite black-and-white words. They bring with them conflict and confusion . . . depression and disappointment . . . anxiety and anger. Yet in the reality of daily living, we see very little that is actually black or white. Now, when it comes to the truths of Scripture as it relates to good and evil, yes, it is black or white. Biblical absolutes are absolutely accurate and unfading. But beyond the Scriptures, life is filled with widely varying shades of gray.
The black-and-white thinker, however, never wants to acknowledge this truth. Do you know why? Let me suggest three reasons (what I call the “black” of black-and-white thinking).
Control – black-and-white thinkers are driven by the need to control as much of life as possible. Black-and-white thinking allows a measure of perceived control.
Comfort – black-and-white thinkers are driven by the need for comfort, and black-and-white thinking allows them to stay within their pre-determined zones of comfort.
Convenience – black-and-white thinkers are driven by the desire for convenience, and black-and-white thinking is convenient and far less complicated.
It is easier to maintain control of your life, comfort in your life, and convenience for your life when you view things simplistically as only black or white. Do you remember taking tests in school and the teacher telling you, “If the answer has the words ‘always’ or ‘never’ in it it’s the wrong answer”? Well, it’s the wrong answer in living the Christian life too!
The only cure for black-and-white thinking is the Gospel. The Gospel frees us from the need for control, because we have surrendered control of our lives to Jesus. The Gospel frees us from the need for comfort, because our comfort is Jesus, regardless of uncomfortable circumstances. The Gospel frees us from the desire for convenience, because the lay-your-life-down-for-others mandate is what fuels the fire of our faith. Learning to live in the gray areas of life is not easy, but it is necessary if we are going to live the life of love and service to which God has called us.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!