“When You Know Better…”

  I have been an avid watcher of Oprah’s Lifeclass, and I have enjoyed the lessons she’s shared from 25 years of interviewing people.  One episode particularly piqued my interest, which was called “When you know better, you do better.”  This quote came from Oprah’s mentor Maya Angelou, who said this to Oprah when she was recounting all the mistakes she made when she was younger.

I think this quote rings true for all of us because I think we understand that many of the mistakes we make are the result of not understanding the true consequences of our actions at the time.   Once we learn better, we do better, if for no other reason than we don’t want the same negative consequence again.

It was obvious, though, that this truism fell short as Oprah revealed the story of  a former prostitute who still felt as if she was “all used up,” despite having broken her addiction to drugs and working the streets.   Oprah tried to assure her that she was not “all used up,” but the former prostitute seemed unconvinced that she could ever be made fully whole from her previous life.

What this illustrates, I think, is that our human wisdom is good, but not good enough.  This woman needed assurance from her Heavenly Father that, despite her sin, she was treasured, valued, and loved beyond measure.  Our human wisdom points out the obvious, that after getting hit with a brick on the head, we learn not to walk under the ladder.  But what we’re missing is that even after we know better, we still need the healing that only the Triune God can give us, namely, the assurance that in spite of our screw-ups, we are still beloved children.

You see, after a person has changed his or her life and no longer participates in self-destructive and demeaning behavior, other people haven’t forgotten and are sometimes quick to remind them.  The beautiful thing is that our Triune God doesn’t condemn us, doesn’t keep an accounting of our rights and wrongs.   When the Pharisees were going to stone a woman who had made a big mistake, Jesus showed the Father’s heart toward us when we sin:

                “‘…Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery.  Moses, in the law, gives order to stone such persons.  What do you say?’

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt… (then) he straightened up and said, ‘The sinless one among you, go first:  Throw the stone…’

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest.  The woman was left alone.  Jesus stood up and spoke to her.  ‘Woman, where are they?  Does no one condemn you?’

‘No one, Master.”

‘Neither do I,’ said Jesus.  ‘Go on your way.  From now on, don’t sin.'” (John 8:3-11, The Message).

When Jesus said, “From now on, don’t sin,” he was not asking the woman to quit adultery because it was on the list of rules the Israelites (and the rest of us) were supposed to keep.  He was concerned that her behavior was keeping her from achieving her best and fullest potential, and her shame was keeping her from accepting love and healing from the Triune God.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not condemn us but seek to restore and heal us.  Maya Angelou’s advice is good, but it only treats part of the problem.  The deepest part is our need to be healed of our shame for making the mistake in the first place, and only the love of the Triune God can fix that.  Maybe we should add a caveat to Oprah’s life lesson:

“When you know better, you do better.  And when you know God’s love better, your heart is healed and restored.”

~by Nan Kuhlman

~photos courtesy of Oprah.com

2 comments so far

  1. Jeannine on

    Excellent observations, Nan – so true. I’ve experienced this myself – it’s only been in understanding the unconditional love of the Triune God that my heart has been freed from the burden of attempting an impossible task – that of measuring up and doing/being “enough.” I think the love of Jesus is like blood flowing through our hearts – if our hearts are blocked by burdens and guilt, this life blood gets blocked there too, we freeze up and we’re not able to resonate with His Love as we might – for own own sakes and those of others. If we allow God to heal and unblock our hearts, and we relax and bathe in the joy of it, His Love will freely resonate from us – and “doing better,” in all its quiet, often unnoticed ways as well as the more obvious, will naturally follow.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Jeannine,

      I agree. As long as we think “it’s all up to me,” we will never have the assurance we so desperately need.

      Thanks for your comment!
      Nan


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