Some people are always suspicious of others' motives, constantly doubting their intentions or searching for hidden agendas behind compliments or praise.
Pastor John Piper calls this "habitual suspicion," and in a post shared Tuesday on his website DesiringGod.org, the pastor, chancellor of Minnesota-based Bethlehem College & Seminary, offers four ways to break free of this consuming habit.
"This kind of doubting or suspicion as a habit is unloving and therefore wrong," explains Piper, who provides biblical background ahead of his four recommendations.
Christians should operate in love, and Piper says the very nature of love seeks out the good in others.
The pastor uses 1 Corinthians 13:7 as a scriptural reference: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
"Love hopes for the best from people, not the worst," he adds. "Love does to others what we would have done to us. And we don't like people to second-guess our motives. You don't like it when people impute to you motives that are not there, so you shouldn't do that to others either."
The theologian offers these four ways to combat "sinful suspicions."
1. Shed Anxiety
Piper explains that anxious suspicion of others' motives is not productive, and he reminds audiences of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:27: "And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?"
The pastor warns that, "anxious suspicion of others' motives does no good. It doesn't help us. It doesn't add anything to our life. It only makes relationships harder and not better."
2. Search Your Own Heart
Here, Piper suggests that constantly questioning people's intentions may be a symptom of one's own tendency for ulterior motives.
The pastor encourages individuals to increasingly find ways to praise others only "whenever there is real reason to praise them."
"Maybe the more you form the habit of praising others this way, the less you will automatically assume others would do anything differently for you."
On this point, Piper admits, "I am really preaching to myself when I say that, because I think most of the times when I am reading negative things into people, it is because I have seen them in myself."
3. Accept Praise and Offer Genuine Thanks
"Resolve that when someone praises you, you will return genuine thanks, but will not even think of some kind of payback that they could get from you."
The theologian says that if those who offer praise really do have ulterior motives, "maybe your authentic gladness in receiving the praise minus any payback will dry up the ulterior motives because they don't work. Meanwhile, you get the pleasure of their praise without worrying about their motives."
Piper reminds believers in Christ to pray. "Pray and ask God to fill you with love and to take away the bent toward suspicion."