By Steven Norris

     “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Jesus’ famed Sermon on the Mount begins with eight statements about who will be considered blessed in the kingdom of God. This list is counterintuitive, including many circumstances that one would rarely consider a “blessed” state.

     Consider this: to “hunger” and “thirst” for righteousness would necessarily mean that one is lacking it or has fallen short of the required standard. They may genuinely desire it, but have not been able to achieve it on their own. These are the ones Jesus calls “blessed” in his kingdom.

     Contrast that desire with the harsh words Jesus reserves for religious leaders: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” They wanted the appearance of righteousness without a requisite desire for the actual transformation and growth necessary to achieve it.

     As I look at these two approaches side-by-side, I am struck by how similar they are to what developmental psychologists refer to as a “growth mindset” versus a “fixed mindset.” A person with a “fixed mindset” believes that one’s qualities are inherent and set in stone — a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character. Conversely, a person with a “growth mindset” believes that one’s basic qualities are things that can be cultivated over time.

     A fixed mindset might cause someone to avoid challenges, give up at the first experience of difficulty, or be threatened by other’s success. It may cause a person to ignore feedback, completely shut down at even the hint of failure, and shy away from unfamiliar things. By contrast, a growth mindset views challenges as opportunities to improve, learns and grows from failure, and is inspired by the success of others. It focuses on the process instead of the end result, embraces feedback, and makes one ready to step out of his or her comfort zone regularly.

     As we approach a new year, which of these two mindsets do you see at work in your own soul? Is there a rigid and judgmental spirit that leads you to look down your nose at those who do things differently than you? Is there a hardness of heart towards others that closes you off from the transformation that God desires?

     Or, are you walking into this new year with the realization that none of us are fully the people God wants us to be? God’s sanctification process is a lifelong one. Therefore, we all have new things to learn and areas of our lives that need to experience the conversion of God’s life-giving spirit. My hope and prayer for the year ahead is that we all might experience a hunger and thirst for growth as we take the next steps toward wholeness and fullness of life in God’s kingdom.