Self-Awareness in the Face of Repetition

The definition of insanity is repeating a series of actions and expecting a different result. We tend to repeat our faulty actions and mistakes in our lives over and over and are surprised when the result is exactly as it was the first time. We sometimes just don’t learn. Last week, I wrote about a gift delivery of pears to my house from a gourmet company and how they were not up to the usual standards that this company is known for. They were brown, bruised, and slightly moldy. So this week, we contacted the company and let them know of the delivery. With sincerest apologies, they sent us another order of the pears. When they arrived, we opened them with great anticipation, as if the company was making up for their faux pas. However, these pears were exactly as the first delivery: brown, bruised, and slightly moldy. At risk of getting caught up in a viscous cycle, I decided to let the company off the hook or risk being “blessed” with another delivery of bruised fruit. At some point, I knew enough to let go of the issue, realizing that it wasn’t worth going after. Thankfully, I learned my lesson the second time, but too often we repeat the same actions and issues and are shocked at the same outcome, not learning until several repetitions down the road. As Christians, we similarly repeat the same sins over and over and are surprised to find ourselves in the same emotional and spiritual state every time we go through that repetition. We cry victim, but it’s really the result of our own words and actions. We don’t learn as fast as we should, or seemingly as quickly as God would like us to. In Matthew 15, Christ tells a crowd a brief parable about how our words affect others. Afterwards, Peter, having listened to Christ’s teaching for some time now and following Him closely, asks Christ to interpret the parable for him and the other apostles. With great amazement, Christ responds with, “Are you still so dull?” (Matthew 15.14). The use of the word “still” in the verse hints at Christ’s shock that after all they’ve been through, after all He’s taught them, that He still needs to explain to them the meaning of His parable as if they haven’t learned a thing. He can’t believe that Peter and the others still can’t figure it out for themselves. Are we truly not that aware of ourselves and our environments to the point that we aren’t learning anything? How can we be so blind to obvious truths? That same self-delusional poisonous repetition seeps itself into so many of our close relationships. In marriage, a partner complains that the other never listens and that they’ve been having the same fight for years. In friendships, people quickly forget how they hurt each other and repeat those hurts over again. In ourselves, we try to resist temptation but allow sin to get a foothold, and we find ourselves at the bottom once again, struggling to climb out. Thankfully, despite God’s apparent frustration with us, He continues to love us and forgive us every time; when asked how many times we should forgive each other, His numerical response was astronomical. But that doesn’t let us off the hook: we still need to be aware and break the cycle. This week, pray for self-awareness and look for mistakes that you continually make. Pray for clarity to see where these areas are in your life, and with the help of self-reflection and His intervention, you might find the out you are looking for in the loop you are trapped in. Amen.


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