The “Why” We’ve Always Done Things

Words help shape the way I live.

Whether you like it or not, it’s also true for you. You just may not have ever thought about how much words influence your reality.

How you think.
How you behave.

You don’t realize how big a deal it is until one day you wake up and realize you’ve been using a word wrong your whole life!

One of the best ways to change how we think is to change how we talk.

[Believe me, I spent an entire undergraduate degree studying communication and words, and part of a graduate degree studying interpreting languages…it’s fascinating how unaware we are of how much words shape us]


So here’s a suggestion I have: instead of talking about the “way we’ve always done things,” let’s talk about the “why we’ve always done things.”

The problem with focusing on the “way” we’ve done it, is we only think about the product or outcome. We get caught up in the performance of life. The doing.

But what typically matters to us about the things we’re doing aren’t the things themselves. It’s the “why” behind them.

Here’s an example from church life:
Maybe you prefer hymns and not modern worship songs. But it’s not really about the hymns. It’s about God speaking thru them. It’s about you feeling His presence as you sing them. It’s maybe even a little about hearing your mom’s voice in your head from when you were a kid as she sang them standing next to you.
[Believe me, I get it, I can still hear my mom singing certain hymns in my head when I sing them in worship]

Really it’s about the “why” you’ve always appreciated hymns.
That’s why you think the way you do.
It’s why you behave the way you do.
It’s not actually (as much as people may think it is) about the hymns themselves.

The who, what, where, when, and how of life can change. In fact, it does quite often throughout our lives. And it’s because those things are truly circumstantial (though related to the why), but the “why” at the core of who we are.


These are what spring up from within us and shape our lives, our families, our workplaces, our churches, our communities, our world…much more than the “way we’ve always done things” actually does.

As humans, we are actually pretty adept at navigating changes. People act like they aren’t. We get told all the time that we’re terrible at it. But as soon as a dissonance exists between someone’s “why” of doing something and their “way” of doing it, then in a moments notice, they’ll make a change.

I know, there’s been a lot of change this year.

But more is coming whether we like it or not. If we think just because 2020 is over then all the surprises are over, we clearly have not lived very long (or are sticking our head in the sand).

I know when change comes, even the most forward-thinking positive people can find themselves longing for stability and comfort. And sometimes they will even voice that they want to go back to the way they’ve always done things.

But actually, they really just want to recover the why they’ve always done things.

And when the way we’ve always done things is disrupted…then we really have the opportunity to identify the “why” and live it out.

And when the way we’ve always done things is disrupted…then we really have the opportunity to identify the “why” and live it out.

Maybe for the first time in a long time.
Even if it is in a new “way.”

Yes, we need to deal with the emotions of change, for sure. The emotions typically surround the “way” we’ve always done things.

But then, we must deal with the identity of change. The identity of it deals with the “why.”

And when we can do that, then we will be fully living into reality.

Allowing our life to be shaped not by our doing, but by our being.

Allowing words to shape our lives correctly, not keeping us stuck.

And it ultimately allows God to be at work in our life in deep ways in our life. Dealing with our desires and motives – our “why” for living the way we do. Impacting us with His words so that we might actually live the way that Jesus showed us to live.

The “why we’ve always done things” has more to do with our discipleship to Jesus than we realize at first.

Maybe this year we can do a better job about talking about the “why” than talking about the “way.”

It might just allow us to follow Jesus’ way a little more closely.

About the author

Drew Anderson

Son. Brother. Husband. Father. Friend. Mentor. Spiritual Director. Consultant. Coach. Student. Communicator. Organizer.

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