Tag Archive: stubborn


One of my dearest friends is an officer in the army. In what we think, the ways we think, the convictions and beliefs we hold, it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that we are diametric opposites. He once said to me, “Steph, we’re never going to get anywhere talking about religion. You’re as stubborn as I am!”

I remember grinning at him, sheepishly.

The funny thing is that it’s totally true, but also totally not.

1. There is a world of difference between a person who is stubborn, and a person who holds a conviction strongly.

I think one of the many blessings of university, is that the longer you spend time in an environment where your views are constantly rubbing up against the views of other people (who are often a heck of a lot smarter than you are), the less likely you are to be overconfident about what you think.

I think it is possible to listen to a person attentively in such a way that you genuinely seek to see the logic, or at least merit, of their opinions. Even if it is an opinion that you really disagree with to start out with. Especially when it is an opinion that you really disagree with.

I think there must be a way of listening in which, instead of calculating in your mind all the ways in which you could undermine their argument with interjections of your own, you listen. Not just attentive to the argument. But attentive to the person. Because until you understand the person, you won’t really understand the argument. Because you won’t understand the worldview that underlies the argument.

But I don’t think it’s accurate to say that if, after listening to the other person sincerely, you hold the same opinion you did to begin with that you are stubborn. It might just be that the other person has not presented you with evidence convincing enough, or an argument compelling enough, to sway you from your strongly held conviction. And that’s legitimate!

2. The pride residing at the root of stubbornness is a poison that we cannot root out by trying harder

Every day for a month last year I wrote “Phil 2:3” on my hand, to try to retrain my mind to resolve to “consider others better than myself.” It was an attempt to train my mind and my mouth.

I think it was a good thing to do.

But it didn’t go deep enough.

You see, I don’t just have a stubborn mind. I have a stubborn heart. Gosh, even when I’m thinking to myself in a conversation, “Consider this person better than you,” another part of me is thinking, “And aren’t you just GREAT for trying to think of them (a person who is clearly inferior to you) better than you?”

!!

You see, I am fundamentally incapable of considering other people better than myself; it’s going to take a lot more than looking at scrawls of ink on my hand throughout the day for me to consider others better than myself!

I need to go deeper. To trace back my words to the thoughts underlying them, and the ways of thinking underlying my thoughts, and to the genesis of these ways of thinking. And, maybe you’ll agree – the spring from which these ways of thinking, from which all of my life flows, is my heart.

3. It takes a heart transplant

I do not think that holding an opinion strongly is necessarily ‘stubborn’ in a negative, ignorant, unresponsive sense.

But I do have a stubborn heart.

When I jotted down this thought a few weeks back, I had just had a week of many refreshing conversations in which I had been reminded of my spiritual amnesia, of my inability to root out these stubborn and poisonous weeds in my heart.

When I say stubborn, I mean this: like a smoker, my heart returns time and time again to the same unsatisfying addictions; like a disobedient dog, I stray back into bad habits; like a distrustful two-year-old, I deliberately forge on towards decisions that I know will upset the ones who love me, and I can’t change it.

I genuinely can’t change it.

Sure, I can change the behaviours: I can stop speaking badly of a person, I can try to think differently about them and rebuke myself every time I slip in the hope that, like Pavlov’s Dog, my behaviour will change. But changing behaviours doesn’t change a heart, and if the heart doesn’t change, then the root which bore the fruit of the behaviour will simply crop up in a different part of my life, in a different way.

4. Persistent grace

The reason these conversations were refreshing and not depressing?

I was reminded of the astounding work that God has done in me by regenerating my heart and giving me new cravings and affections to replace my old ones. I was reminded of the relentless pursuit of God in His endeavour to reclaim ALL of my heart for Himself. I was reminded of His faithfulness in saving me from myself, from my stubborn heart, and from the unkind masters I am prone to devoting myself to.

He hasn’t withheld any of His infinite resources in His redemption of this death-bound creature. It does not make sense to think that He would save me on a cosmic, eternal scale, only to leave me to change myself, alone.

No. His grace is persistent. He persists in wooing me to return to me from the rebellion of sin, and He persists in the gradual work of regenerating all the cravings and desires of my heart.

I am fundamentally incapable of changing my own heart. But He is not. He is the only one with hands that are strong enough, delicate enough, and loving enough to change my stubborn heart. But the incredible thing is that unlike my manufactured self-resolve, His purposes cannot be thwarted. He will overcome my stubborn heart.

Heck. Yes. !

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

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Travel

“How much do our travels measure up to the longings that inspired them? I decided that I’d try to find happiness there (in the Mediterranean). Everything was exactly as the brochure had promised. But there was one thing that wasn’t as I had hoped. … At the middle of Day 1, a troubling realization began to dawn on me. That I had inadvertently brought myself along with me.” (Alain de Botton)

I think I often feel that if I were to change where I lived, that I would live differently. That I would be free from the patterns of life that I find undesirable. I think there’s an element to which moving away would help me to catalyse change, or maybe consolidate change. But it’s important for me to remind myself that the only lasting changes come from a change of heart, not a change of place, not even a change of relationships. And the only one with strong enough hands to coax the knots out of my stubborn heart is He who made it.