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Assigning Motives

November 20, 2018
Inward Thinking July 17, 2018

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV 1984).

I have recently begun managing a patient who had originally been cared for in a distant city. Unfortunately, his cancer has returned. He now needs multiple doctors to attempt to save his arm and his life. One doctor he is seeing now was furious that the prior doctor had treated him inadequately. He actually told my patient, “You need to sue the doctor who did this.”

When the patient asked me about the mistakes made, I simply said that the concern was outside my expertise.

One week after the encounter above, one of my fellows shared with me a conversation. This same patient had mentioned to her the recommendation for a lawsuit, realizing that the previous therapeutic mistake might lead to his death. And then the patient continued, “You know, that doctor did what he thought in his heart was best for me. I can’t get angry at him for that.”

Do you ever have trouble letting go of pain?

Usually when we are severely hurt by another, we begin to assign motives to the one who has wounded us, motives that are evil or self-serving. We focus on our pain and resent the motivation; our anger grows, and our hurt is magnified by that anger.

This patient of mine did something phenomenal. His hurt was real, but he chose to assign good motives to the one who had hurt him. What did this do for his anger? What did this do for his pain and resentment?

All of us are living with personal injury. What if I now do as this man did and assign good motives to the heart of the one who hurt me? Might that lessen the pain as much as my anger magnifies it? Might it not be just as likely true as any evil motives I might imagine?

I don’t know. But I look at this patient and remember the words from the cross for the ones who put Him there, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34a, NIV 1984).

Dear Father,
When someone hurts me, let me as a default position assume their heart was good.

Al Weir, MD

About Al Weir, MD

After leaving academic medicine, Dr. Weir served in private practice at the West Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee from 1991-2005 before joining the CMDA staff as Vice President of Campus & Community Ministries where he served for three years from 2005-2008. He is presently Professor of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Program Director for the Hematology/Oncology fellowship program. He is also President of Albanian Health Fund, an educational ministry to Albania where he has been serving for 20 years. He is the author of two books: When Your Doctor Has Bad News and Practice by the Book. Dr. Weir’s work has also been published in many medical journals and other publications. Al and his wife Becky live in Memphis, Tennessee, and they have three children and three grandchildren. Dr. Weir is currently serving on CMDA's Board of Trustees.

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