Q12: Do people ever have conflicting motives?

By David Powlison 2007
from Chapter on “I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire” in “Seeing With New Eyes

12. Do people ever have conflicting motives?
Certainly. The conflict between sinful lusts and the Holy Spirit’s desires is a given of the Christian life (Gal. 5:16-17). People often have mixed motives, some good, and some bad. Most preachers and counselors will acknowledge that loving Christ and people battles against love for success and human approval.
In other instances, two sinful cravings may conflict. For example, a businessman might want to steal something from a convenience store, but holds back in fear of what people would think if they found out. In this example, mammon worship and social approval present themselves as options for the flesh; the heart inclines to the latter.
People often prioritize their cravings, and arrange the priorities differently in different situations. For example, the man who would never shoplift because of the social consequences might cheat on his taxes because he’s not likely to get caught, and no one who “matters” would know if he did. In this case self-will and mammon worship seize the steering wheel, and social approval moves to the back seat. The “broad way” has a thousand creative variants!

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