Friday, April 29, 2022

How to Stop Magical Thinking


BySarah Geringer 

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.

Proverbs 26:11 NIV

I'm learning a difficult lesson right to stop magical thinking. Magical thinking goes something like this:

  • If I just keep telling them the truth, eventually they will believe it.
  • Maybe if I change my approach, they will finally listen to me.
  • Though the last time didn't work, I'll try it one more time.

These approaches may work with reasonable people. But if you are dealing with a foolish person, they will not work, no matter how hard you try, because a fool will persist in being a fool.

We can fall prey to magical thinking if we have misplaced hopes. We may hope that people will change when they are being so unreasonable that any common person could recognize the truth. Our hope may be rooted in deep love for them -  love that has sacrificed much without getting much in return, since fools are inherently selfish people. Misplaced hopes are hard for those of us who struggle with codependency.

But our hope needs to be fully rooted in God, not in the change we hope for in other people that manifests in magical thinking. When you love a fool, you will experience much heartache. They just don't want to change their ways, no matter how gross the consequences can be. 

As the vivid picture in today's verse paints, we are repulsed by a dog's return to its vomit, though this is just what dogs do because they are dogs. Only a fool would do the same grotesque thing by returning to its folly - because a reasonable person would learn from folly the first time. But that's what fools do because they are fools.

This is not a means to judge others. Instead, it's a principle so we can protect ourselves from the dangers of magical thinking. We can no more wave a magic wand and turn a dog into a cat than we can turn a fool into a wise person. Even if we don't have a magic wand (of course, none of us do), no matter of effort on our parts will change a fool who wants to return to being a fool. Only God knows what it will take to change a fool's hardened, entitled heart.

I have gained much perspective on dealing with foolish people from the wisdom in the book Necessary Endings. I've learned that when fools repeat their folly, I need to recognize the patterns and examine how much I need to stay engaged with a person who is unwilling to change. I've learned how to stop magical thinking by letting go of my expectations that a fool will listen to reason.

It's such a comfort to know that God allows us the choice to be wise or foolish, to have boundaries versus magical thinking. We can trust in our Sovereign Lord rather than any magic wand of our own making. We can trust that he will deal with the fools in our lives with perfect justice, either in this life or the next. The Lord God Almighty will help us stop magical thinking, surrender our wishes and hopes and grief to him, and trust him to protect us from the folly of the fools in our lives.

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Have a blessed weekend!

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1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, you were talking to past me right there. Boy have I been there, and it took me a long time to work through. Thank you so much for this. Blessings.


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