I remember when the WWJD trend started. People all around trying to ponder what would Jesus do in this situation?
About 15 years ago my friend was about to get married to best girl, Jamie. I remember we joked at the bachelor party that his wrist band emblazoned with the letters “WWJD” standing for “What Would Jamie Do?”, to keep us on the straight and narrow for the bachelor party. We ended up going to see the latest Austin Powers movie, definitely tame by bachelor party standards.
Holding yourself to the perceived standard of another person is an interesting behavior monitoring and adjustment tactic. What would your soon to be wife do in this situation? What would your best friend do in this situation? What would Jesus do in this situation? But in order for you to actually and accurately apply this technique, you would need to know the mind of the person that you intend to model your behavior after.
It’s intriguing when you consider the implications of such a question. “What Would Jesus Do?” The question often implies the higher calling of mankind. To seek peace and justice. But do we truly know the mind of the Christ? Could we act in a similar way to the expectation of how Jesus would behave? It is easy to simply ask the question, but to walk through the inevitable assumption that it implies, is to believe that we know the mind of Christ. And ergo, based on religious dogma, to know the mind of God.
But really, in the average case, when this question is applied, you’re not behaving as Christ. You are just overlaying a religious behavioral code on your actions and then judging them as worthy or unworthy. If we were to truly answer the question of “What Would Jesus Do?” we would need to understand the underlaying motivation and impetus behind all actions of God to really grasp how to behave in any situation. Thus rendering the question of “What Would Jesus Do?” at best inert and at worst harmful. How could we possibly know? And what if we were to interpret the actions wrong and instead of choosing to feed the homeless we chose on that day to overturn the tables of the money changers? How are we to know that we’ve chosen the right action?
I bring up this question not to denigrate the intent of those eager to seek a higher power to guide their actions. Rather I point out this epitome of logical failure in seeking guidance to highlight a simpler action that occurs far more often. To avoid the pitfalls of comparing yourself to others. You see, I find my brain doing this all the time, when I react in a unpleasant way to something I find my mind judging and saying “Nathan would never have done that.” Or “I bet Peter handles these situations much better than I do.” It is a common pitfall to assume that others are better behaved than us, more compassionate than us, a better person than we are.
In fact to enact this type of comparison falls under the same logical fallacy, to imply that you know the mind of the other person and know how they would react in any given situation. It is not our job to know the minds of others. And it is not our job to judge our actions against the perceived thoughts of others. It is our job to know ourselves.
It is our job to understand ourselves. It is our job to know our own minds. It is our job to understand our actions and learn from them.
What Would You Do?