The last time “This is Your Brain on God” met we discussed Carol Dweck’s theory on fixed vs. growth mindset. This researcher learned that people fall into one of these two categories, depending on whether or not he/she believes his intelligence and behavior are set in stone or can grow and change. Here is a clip on mindset that explains the basic idea.
While very few people would SAY they can’t grow, change or learn, apparently about half of the population acts as if this was true. This means there are a lot of people running around afraid of making a mistake, or trying something new because it will mark them as less than competent. They want to stay safe at their level of competence.
It also means that there are a bunch of people running around who eagerly seek challenges and know they can learn from mistakes. They are not satisfied with their level of competence.
I suspect that growth mindset people make far more mistakes but that fixed mindset people are more likely to sabotage their growth. We human beings sure are messed up in our sin, aren’t we?
So as Christians, living as sinners in a sinful world, what mindset works best for us? Hmmmm, stay away from sin, or grow? I think the real question is which one is possible?
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5
We can’t stop ourselves from sinning. We have been sinners from the beginning of our lives and will continue to make mistakes until we die. Trying to prevent ourselves from mistakes is a hopeless task. Trying to follow the law only convicts us of our sin and convinces us of our need for a savior.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
Yet, this whole idea of growing and learning is not without its problems. We can’t improve ourselves anymore than we can stay away from sin.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. Isaiah 64:6a
Sounds impossible, and as always, the answer has to be found in a loving Father, the redemptive act of His Son and the work of His Spirit.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalm 33:18
We cannot save ourselves by following the law. God saw this and sent Jesus to accomplish justification for us. Through the living of one perfect life, through death and resurrection, we are made righteous in His eyes.
But God did not stop with justification. He continues with sanctification. He sets us apart and works faith in our hearts through the word and sacraments. He changes us.
For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:13
For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. I Thessalonians 4:7
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 5:9-10
I suspect that we are happiest when we are somewhere in-between fixed and growth mindsets. We are fixed mindset in that we know we are sinners and cannot change that truth. We have a growth mindset in that we know that through the work of God we can grow and bear fruit.
Rejoice that this is true: the burden for our salvation is not ours; the blessings of living a sanctified life can be known to us through word and sacrament.