There is a machine inside of every single one of us. I call it the meaning machine.
What Does a Machine Do?
My wife and I recently acquired a smoker. It’s a box that you fill with wood chips and is meant to cook things like ribs, pork, or roast. You doctor up your meat — in our case, ribs — you let the smoker get to temperature, and then you put the raw slabs into the smoker. Hours later, you pull out some amazing, fall off the bones ribs.
In essence, the smoker is an example of a machine. You put something in it, it does its thing, and then some things come out of it. There are input and output, and a machine in the middle.
Input -> Machine -> Output
What comes out of it is affected by the woodchips, the smoke produced by the wood chips, the sauce or seasoning that you use, how long they are in the smoker, etc. Done right, the smoker produces some tasty ribs! But with a faulty process, it can produce awful ribs as well.
We have a machine inside of us. It’s not a smoker: there are not wood chips. But it does produce something – it produces meaning.
Similar to our example, we have input and we have output, what happens in-between is the meaning we give to something. It’s how we interpret a situation.
Let me give you an example. Have you ever been trading text messages with a friend and they responded with a single word, something like: sure?
What you brain has to determine is what does that “sure” mean. Was it capitalized? Did it have an exclamation mark or just a few periods after it? Was there a thumbs up emoji behind the word? Your brain — the meaning machine — has to produce meaning.
With the absence of that information, our brains go to work to try to figure out what that “sure” means. When there is ambiguity, when there is a lack of context, when there is no other data, our brains go to work. The machine kicks into gear and produces something.
Do you Believe the Best or
Assume the Worst?
Here’s what I’ve found, we typically create meaning based on 1 of 2 filters:
We either believe the best or we assume the worst.
So let’s go back to my bbq smoker illustration. The output is affected by the sauce, the time, the temperature, the quality of the meat.
So what affects our output? Definitely human nature, our upbringing, past circumstances, and more. But as a believe who is trying to live a better story, we need to add a few other inputs to the machine: Christ’s commands, the fruit of the spirit, and my daily striving towards being like Christ.
Here’s what we add to the mix:
- Christ’s commands – Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Fruits of the Spirit – Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
- Striving to be like Christ – Walking in step with what Jesus would do.
Now if we’re not careful, we’ll justify why it’s OK to assume the worst. But here’s what I want you to try today. When someone does something that your brain would normally process in a negative light, write it off, and say in your heart, “They probably didn’t mean that.”
Paul tells us a bit about the meaning machine in Romans 12. He says in verse 2, ” Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
So today, I want to encourage you to change the way you think. Try applying the positive filters of Christ’s commands, the fruit of the spirit and personal striving to choose to believe the best. I know it will make a difference today!