I can Do Anything I Set My Mind To
“I can do anything I set my mind to” is a common catchphrase of the “empowered” Generation X. But is it true?
Just because you may be capable of achieving something doesn’t mean you should. I’m not just talking about evil things. I’ll give you a personal example. I could continue my tertiary education and in 18mths full time or 36 months part time I could have my Masters Degree. I’ve always wanted to be very well educated. However, that would mean putting my children in day care and school. Possibly also before and after school care. It would pressurise my time, giving me less time to do the housework. It would give me less time to spend with my kids. It would leave me with less energy to serve others and be hospitable. It would be wrong to pursue this.
In many ways, mankind is capable of almost anything it sets its mind to. As the papers attest to. But that doesn’t mean that we should. And believing that “I can do anything I set my mind to” is just plain wrong. It is new age mantras and selfishness. God is able to do anything (Matt 19:26). We are not. Phrases like that take the focus off God and onto ourselves.
I could set my mind to learning the piano and that’s probably within my ability. But if I was to set my mind to writing a concerto that I am invited to play for the Queen, I am going to be sorely disappointed and waste my life in the process. My God-given talents and abilities are not in that area.
At the same time, I am a writer. A published writer, with articles in several magazines. So it would seem within my skill set and God given abilities to “set my mind to” writing a book and having it published. Maybe even on the New York Times Best-seller list. It’s not going to happen. No matter how many hours of neglecting my children and my God-given responsibilities at home (Titus 2:5) I waste on “my book”, it’s not going to happen. Deciding I am capable of this since I have set my mind to it means I will make lots of selfish decisions. I could put of having another child, since it would interrupt my writing plans, or resent a child I have conceived because it interferes with my plans (and if I wasn’t a Christian, perhaps abort the baby because it doesn’t fit in with the my plans for me to write a book). I could put my kids in school and day care because it’s best for me, in my quest for self-fulfilment, to be able to achieve what I want to achieve.
Women can and do abandon their husbands, children and families in a quest for self-fulfilment. Some divorce their husbands, leave without the kids because their families are dragging them down and preventing them from achieving their goals, progressing in their career and being their best. Some simply retreat into a selfish world where everything revolves around “me” and their current project or goal. Some “farm out” their children on all available occasions for some “me time” or time to work on their goals, and end up not knowing their children. It’s common. I’ve seen it and if it wasn’t a breach of privacy and professional ethics, I could name person after person, mother after mother who has done this.
Not all ambition is sinful. Without ambition and guts against the odds, we would never have aeroplanes, computers and all sorts of other technologies. We may never have had some of Beethoven’s music or Monet’s art. We may never have seen Australia discovered. But “I can do anything” is not Godly.
Self-fulfilment is not the purpose of life. Nor will it be found in pursuing our own selfish goals. True fulfilment is found in seeking first His kingdom (Matt 6:33), in pursuing justice and mercy and walking humbly before God (Micah 6:8) and in fearing (in the sense of deep respect) and obeying God (Ecc 12:13).