Saturday, March 20, 2021

What is it About Knowledge?

 There are a couple quotes or ideas about knowledge that have been bumbling about in my brain lately and I thought putting my ideas about them here on the blog might make for some interesting reading.

I've often heard people claim "People who know better, do better" but I'm fairly certain society has proved this wrong over and over again. For instance, we all know that drinking during pregnancy is dangerous, and unhealthy for a baby. Does that stop people? Often, but not always. There's also plenty of evidence to show that regularly watching TV or any type of screen before the age of 2 has negative effects on children. Does that stop us? No! Did it stop me? I'm sorry to say, no. 

Why is this? Why does knowing what is right, or better, or best, not equate to doing better? I'm not a psychologist of any sort, and I probably don't have enough experience to rightly explain all of it, but I am a thinker from birth, perhaps an over-analyzer, so I do believe my thoughts can lead to some insights that might help all of us turn our knowing into something more than just facts tumbling around in our brains.

There are endless examples of things we know are good for us that we just don't do: eating more fruits and vegetables, getting more exercise, watching less TV, laughing more, drinking less alcohol, sleeping more, spending less money, and the list goes on. We have such an abundance of knowledge about things that are good or bad for us, but so little willingness to take action. 

Photo Credit: Yogesh Pedamkar

Mark and I often talk about the idea of an internal switch. At different points in time, we both felt like a switch was flipped in our brains that finally helped us take the initiative to lose weight. Mark lost over 30 pounds and I lost 20 pounds, each in within four months. Mark says that part of it had to do with his shirts not fitting right, and my reasons might have stemmed from a bit of envy (just being honest here) and being encouraged my other friends' results. But why did those things finally flip the switch for us? Why don't those things work for everyone, at all times, about all things?

You have likely heard the quote "Knowledge is power" but in the bible, Jesus says that if we abide in Him and become His disciples, we will know the truth, and it will set us free (John 8:31-32). What is the difference between knowledge and truth? What is the difference between power and freedom?

In case you thought I had answers to all these questions, I don't. I do want to explore them more, and I hope you do too, but what I genuinely want to understand is what is it that flips that switch? What is it that takes our knowledge and turns it into action? 

I think a lot of this has to do with belief. Knowing something is not the same as truly believing it, or rather believing ON it, and true belief in and on something will lead to action. I don't think you can really believe something is true without taking action upon it, whether that mean you oppose that truth or stand behind it. In the bible, James says something similar about faith and works: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead." (James 2:26) 

This is where we have to get a tiny bit philosophical in order to make some of these information make applicable sense to us, because this now needs to become a discussion on thinking, values, priorities, and truth. 

Sure, maybe I believe that TV is not good for my one year old, but I don't believe it's bad enough to make me want to change. It's easier to let them watch here and there, and in that way I am valuing my convenience more than the well-being of my child. I haven't looked at the studies in depth, and maybe it's more damaging than I realize, but during that phase of my life, I felt like the pros (me getting a little more peace and therefore being a nicer mom) would outweigh the cons (addiction to devices, lower attention span, etc.). I didn't believe it was bad enough, or worse than my other options, and sometimes that becomes legitimate enough for us.

We do this type of negotiating and weighing the costs over and over, every day, often without much thought. We believe eating a salad for lunch is not worth the effort of preparing the salad. We believe the walk during lunch is not worth the time and effort and discomfort it might create. I know I tend to believe that the work of waking up early, putting on workout clothes, getting sweaty, showering, and then finally getting ready for the day are not generally worth the benefit of a solid, early-morning workout. We think in our minds that these things are true, but we don't take the risk to step ON them and let them carry us to the destination they proclaim.

This might be where you are hoping I have a grand solution, or at least a method that has been working for me. This is also where you might be slightly disappointed. 

I'm sorry this post doesn't have a lot of answers, but hopefully it has enough food for thought to get you going. What do you believe in your head to be true but not believe with your actions? What do you think would be good for your life but not really believe deep down that it is worth the effort? What can you do to flip that switch? And more importantly, do you genuinely want to?

A couple years ago I wrote a post for The Joyful Life about reading Christian biographies. I value looking at the lives of other Christians so highly because it helps give me a more biblically accurate view of my own life. I see their dedication, struggles, triumphs, and habits and it all helps me better see what it means to actively follow Christ. I think the same type of principle applies for getting our hearts to take the knowledge we obtain and turn it into action. If we can see how our knowledge plays out in real life, it increases our faith in the value of that particular action. It increases our willingness to give up our comfort, energy, time, and effort for the reward on the other side of that knowledge. 

So now, I'm turning over this idea to you. As this idea continues to roll around in my head, I may come back and offer a few more insights, but for now, you need to let it roll around in your head too. What else can we do to turn our knowledge into belief? The Sunday school answers are pray, read your bible, ask God to help you, etc., and I really do believe those to be true. Maybe you'll find that the more you think about the things you know the be true, you just start to believe them. Maybe as you pursue them you'll find that God miraculously helps you to desire the rewards knowledge in action will lead you to. Who knows what all that knowledge will become! But I don't think I can ever go back to thinking that knowledge by itself will bring me anything worthwhile. Knowledge is only power if you use it as a key and actually walk through the door it opens.

What keys are you holding onto? What knowledge have you been waiting to use? And what are you going to do now?


  1. I want to start by saying letting your kids consume media before 2 is still highly debated. I just wrote an academic paper on that and a lot seems to depend on whether it is passive media like tv watching, or active media like playing games. It is also not the ONLY factor we have to look at because how engaged children are in other tasks that require delayed gratification make much more of an impact than whether they have media at a young age. So don't be hard on yourself if you use the iPad or tv to get a little break.

    I am so glad I am not the only one who thinks about these things. We know the truth that eating healthier, exercising regularly, reading scripture, praying, etc is the best way to live life but motivation to do so is so hard to maintain. I think the answer is definitely scriptural. We wrestle with the flesh all the time and the flesh doesn't want to do things that have uncomfortable motivation. Selfish motivation, much easier. Eating healthy and working out are good goals but when the motivation is being a sexier or better looking version of ourselves, it's much easier to justify falling off the bandwagon. When the motivation to read scripture is that we want to look like a good Christian or just be a better role model, it's easy to justify not getting in that time.

    I think the focus should be on the motivation from God's perspective. Eating healthy and working out is the best way to live because God only gave us one body and cherishing this gift He gave us to use for His glory is important. Being in scripture/praying is how we further a relationship with our Father. When I started shifting to that mindset, praying "I know my motivation is selfish right now, but I want to be motivated for YOUR plans," it has helped. Not been perfect by any means but better.

    It's not a perfect answer, and this is a really hard question, but it's really encouraging to know we aren't alone in these kinds of struggles.

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  3. Thanks for your thoughts on this Joellen. I certainly don't have the answers either. I find my slow, slow progressive sanctification process very frustrating as I've written about on my blog in the past and it can even sometimes cause me to doubt whether my salvation is genuine because of lack of more "evidence" of life change. I am currently working on weight loss and a new lifestyle of better body care for myself and for the Lord's glory. I do not want to continue in thoughtless gluttony. I have made progress but it is so hard. I've recently had "the switch flip" and kick in to a new better resolve and diet plan. I think I finally got so sick with some of my weird sick spells that I believe are food related (I think I have MCAS or food histamine intolerance) that I decided to try a much more limited diet for seeking health and weight loss purposes. On 1200 calories daily my weight loss has been painfully slow since last July. Now I'm focusing more on the types of foods I am choosing. Anyway, I think we need something to make us really WANT to change. Obeying God better for His glory should be enough, and should be our highest priority, but for me I struggle with it. God sometimes gives us issues to help us along in finding the key to change, and hopefully we don't have to hit a rock bottom bad spot to get there. I believe perseverance, and being transformed by renewing our minds is most key, along with accountability to a trusted friend with prayer support for each other. This is sorely lacking in the American church I find. Congrats to you on your weight loss and how easily you made that look. Keep writing; I love how you get me thinking.