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A Double-Minded Man
This verse in James struck me while Michael and I were prayerfully deciding whether he should quit his job back in April. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). I printed it out and posted it on my wall so I could remind myself of the importance of being determined and taking ownership of my decisions. This verse follows directly after the famous verses that shaped the decision Joseph Smith made to ask in faith “nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (James 1:6).
Through this process of figuring out what the direction our family needed to take, Michael and I have sought all kinds of inspiration and guidance from the Spirit. The reminder that being double-minded makes you unstable kept playing out again and again in my thoughts. We needed to make a decision, and then be true to whatever direction we felt we needed to go.
At the time, I was also listening to the book Psycho-Cybernetics. The advice in that book is that the time to mill over a decision is not after the choice is made. Once you’ve made your choice, you need to take full ownership of that choice and whatever outcome happens from it. So, you need to take the time before you make the decision to weigh out the options thoroughly, make the decision with confidence, and then never look back.
I felt like this jived with my thoughts about Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk from the Worldwide Devotional when he said, “In many cases, the decisions you make may not be as important as what you do after making the decision” (The Adventure of Mortality, January 14, 2018). I knew that whatever our decision, we needed to stay true to the commitment to see it through even if it was difficult.
So, Michael quit his job. Then, we sold our home and our second car. We took our belongings and our babies 650 miles from where we’d been living our whole marriage, and moved in with my parents. This hasn’t been an easy journey, but we are determined to make good on our decision until we receive new direction on how to live our faith and our purpose here more intentionally.
When you consider much of James in the context of double-mindedness, I believe this is actually a recurring theme throughout the book. I will endeavor to demonstrate how this is true.
Double-Mindedness and Patience
Patience requires being unwavering in our faith. When we wait upon the Lord, we have complete trust in His ability to discern our needs. It is easy to become impatient when we are double-minded.
Think of the example Elder Uchtdorf shared in his Conference address in April 2010 when he talked about the marshmallow experiment. Children who trusted that the scientist conducting the experiment were able to wait by focusing on the promise they had been given. The ones who did not wait were possibly conflicted. Maybe they didn’t trust the scientist. Maybe they were just so preoccupied by the marshmallow that they couldn’t focus on whether or not they trusted the scientist. Either way, they could not be patient.
It was revealed later on that these children became unstable in their character. Because they could not delay gratification, they could not hold the desired outcome in their minds long enough to have the patience to wait for it.
James says, “Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh…Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:8; 11). That phrase “stablish your hearts” brings to mind images of being firm and grounded in faith or trust in the Lord.
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (Alma 31:20) This steadfastness in Christ, this hope and trust gives us the power to press forward unwavering and endure to the end.
It’s no wonder James begins his epistle with the reminder that the trial of our faith “worketh patience” so it’s no wonder we all struggle to be stable. It’s easy to doubt and fear when it feels like our faith is being tested. But, as we mature in our faith, we become more patient and more trusting.
Consider This: what are you so worried about when you are impatient? Pause to mindfully consider what you can do while you wait that is productive and uplifting. Mindfully observe yourself and be present to your thoughts. Say a prayer for patience. While you’re being mindful, be present where you are and bring yourself back to being present with what is right in front of you. Trust the Lord that He is aware of you. Trust that He will provide a way even if it isn’t the way you expected. Study “Spiritual Capacity” by Sister Michelle Craig from the October 2019 General Conference.
Double-Mindedness in Faith Without Works
When we act on faith, we are demonstrated our ability to behavior in congruence with our beliefs. So, “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works (James 2:17,18). James says we perfect our faith through our actions to demonstrate that faith.
Faith without works is double-mindedness and leads to instability because if your works don’t reflect your faith, you lack integrity. A lack of integrity means your behavior conflicts with your beliefs and you are clearly double-minded!
Even the idea to “ask in faith” implies more than just lip service or merely getting information. “Notice the requirement to ask in faith, which I understand to mean the necessity to not only express but to do, the dual obligation to both plead and to perform, the requirement to communicate and to act…“True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to righteous action… “We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayer, after we say ‘amen,’ by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father. “Asking in faith requires honesty, effort, commitment, and persistence” (David A. Bednar, “Ask in Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008)
James goes further to explain that we cannot simply sit back and expect that we only need to hear the gospel without practicing it. He says, “be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). I love that he uses this example of a man looking into the mirror but then forgetting who he is as soon as he walks away. How quickly we forget the Lord if we aren’t constantly thinking of what we can do to honor Him and follow His example.
I dare to say that those of us who simply claim to believe, or go to church and listen without any intention to act on the truths we know are hypocrites. A hypocrite is defined as a pretender or a fraud. Wouldn’t that also imply that we are double-minded and cannot be trusted? This inconsistency with our actions eats away at your conscience and destroys your peace of mind.
Prayerfully look for ways to manifest your faith in ways that work with whatever season of life you find yourself now. I know how difficult it can be to feel like you’re being pulled in so many directions that it’s easy to divide your attention. Consider how this double-mindedness is stressing you out like it does for me! I know that when my time and attention are divided, I feel totally unstable. I am working on being more mindfully present to the things that I need to do in any given moment. Getting clarity on where I’m needed most helps ground me to act on my faith.
Consider This: Reflect on whether your prayers are in faith, meaning that you pray with the intent to act. Pause after your prayers to mindfully examine the thoughts that come into your mind that may be promptings to act on the things you prayed for. Study “Ask in Faith” by Elder David A. Bednar from the April 2008 General Conference. Check out Elder L. Tom Perry’s address from the April 1977 General Conference “But Be Ye Doers Of The Word.”
Double-Mindedness in Harsh Language
All of our actions are motived by one of two things: faith (trust) or fear. How we behave and the things we say are a reflection of our motivation. Our thoughts spill out of us in the words we say and in the way we treat ourselves and others. If we claim to want others to trust us but we spew judgement and criticism, we are not worthy of trust.
Simon Sinek said, “there are only two ways to influence behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.” Manipulation is fear-driven. Think about the ways people manipulate. They push, they use shame, they force, they deceive. This will get you immediate results, maybe, but in the long run, it will backfire. Inspiring behavior requires trust.
I have become a little bit obsessed with the idea of how our language and behavior toward one another creates either trust or fear. You cannot manipulate others and instill trust. A few examples of things that demonstrate whether our behavior and speech reflects and instills either trust or fear:
- Compassion and gentleness versus anger;
- Consequences versus punishment;
- Having a conversation or even a disagreement versus arguing;
- Calm versus unstable;
- Taking responsibility versus blaming
- Freedom versus oppression;
- Belief versus gas-lighting;
- Open-minded versus stubborn;
- Humility versus close-mindedness;
- Honesty versus lying;
- Mentoring versus enforcing
- Being willing versus being apathetic
- Being interested versus being indifferent
- Politeness versus vulgarity
- Definite versus vague
- Humor versus sarcasm
- Transparent versus cryptic
Just consider how you feel when people demonstrate these behaviors and speak this way to us. We are either developing trust or destroying it by our words and actions.
James says, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:11-12). James says when we speak out of envy and strife, sensual or devilish there is “confusion and every evil work” because of hypocrisy, or double-mindedness.
Elder Jeffery R. Holland spoke about the power of our words and said, “A husband who would never dream of striking his wife physically can break, if not her bones, then certainly her heart by the brutality of thoughtless or unkind speech.” And, “Sisters, there is no place in that magnificent spirit of yours for acerbic or abrasive expression of any kind, including gossip or backbiting or catty remarks. Let it never be said of our home or our ward or our neighborhood that ‘the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity … [burning] among our members’” (“The Tongue Of Angels, April 2007 General Conference).
I want to say a word about humor because I believe this is where we often slip up. There is a thin line between things that are funny and laughing at another’s expense. When we use laughter to belittle or demean others, it is a way to spewing strife and justifying that we are just having a little bit of fun.
Humor is certainly an important part of life and I encourage it. It’s just important to have tact and recognize that the best time to use humor is in our own self-examination as a tool to improve upon ourselves and our situation.
“A sense of humor is the ability to discover, to identify, and to appreciate the ludicrous and the incongruous in words, and situations, and ideas, in human beings and in the universe…the kindly contemplation of the incongruities of life and the artistic expression thereof…A sense of humor is at least a partial way of looking at life, it’s a person opting to see himself or herself from a comic instead of from a solemn perspective… Humor is the kind of self-dramatization in which a human being clambers out of himself, springs to a nearby pinnacle, and views himself from a different standpoint, from a comic stance, which either diminishes the problem by placing it in a cosmic context or magnifies the problem by exaggerating the matter to ludicrous dimensions and thus diminishing it” (Richard H. Cracroft, Brigham Young University Devotional, 1982, “A Time for Laughter“).
Consider This: Study Elder Holland’s talk “The Tongue Of Angels” and take inventory of how you speak or how you can improve your speech to include words that strengthen your relationships and foster trust between you. Create a word box where you list out kind words you hear your family members speak and praise each other, or express how those words made you feel loved and respected.
Double-Mindedness and Being A Respecter of Persons
If you’ve read any of my previous articles then you know how much I love to dispel the need for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to justify any kind of judgement on anyone. There is a place for righteous judgement to discern between truth and error, or good and evil. However, the reality is we have been commanded not to judge others because we simply are not equipped to see others in their true form.
James again teaches there is no exception when it comes to judging others. When he is referring to “respect of persons” “means to show partiality or favoritism toward individuals” (New Testament Student Manual, Institute of Religion). James is especially explicit about discrimination against the poor based on their appearance. He says that “the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him” (James 2:5).
Even Alma teaches that we are hypocrites if we plead for our own welfare and “turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith” (Alma 34:28).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “We must never forget that we live in a world of great diversity. The people of the earth are all our Father’s children and are of many and varied religious persuasions. We must cultivate tolerance and appreciation and respect one another. We have differences of doctrine. This need not bring about animosity or any kind of holier-than-thou attitude” (“The Work Moves Forward,” Ensign, May 1999).
Consider This: With the holiday season approaching, it is a perfect time to appreciate people in all economic situations, though I hope we don’t limit this attitude to the holiday season. Ask your leaders, or community outreach programs where you are needed. Collect donations for food banks, offer to watch a ward member’s children while they go to work, or invite someone new over to dinner. Let go of judgement and simply love them how the Savior would love them.
“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” as opposed to a “Father…with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). When we demonstrate our faith and trust in Him by our words, deeds, and actions we are learning to become more like Him. We bear sweet fruits of the gospel and establish stability, integrity, and presence of mind.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).