Click below to hear about the three things that make you stupid on the Candidly Kendra podcast:
Eighteen year-old Melissa walked dreamily into the kitchen. She opened the fridge and looked inside, but she didn’t see anything. Then she put her car keys in the freezer and wandered upstairs, smiling to herself as she looked at her cell phone. She’s in love, you see.
Twenty-five year old Matt is lost in his own head. He stares off into space most of the day. When you talk directly to him, it seems to take him a minute to reenter the real world. He looks at you, but can’t seem to gather his thoughts to answer. It looks like he forgot to shave today. He’s grieving a personal loss, you see.
Forty year-old Shannon has been distracted for the past few days. She now seems to have lost her mind. She’s quit her job, packed her bags and barely gives her bewildered husband a second look as she heads out the door to her new life. She’s been having an affair, you see.
What do each of these stories have in common? Melissa, Matt, and Shannon have something wrapped up in their heads so tightly that common sense and wisdom are being shut out. Something is making them act stupid.
There are three things that can make you act stupid: love, pain, and desire.
One is beautiful.
Another is terrible.
And the last is the worst of all.
Love Makes You Stupid
Steve (my now-husband) started coming to my line at Target when I was seventeen years old. He would walk in the front doors when I was working on the cash register, and my world would begin to spin.
I’d watch him out of the corner of my eye, hoping he didn’t notice how magnetically my eyes were drawn to him, because…how embarrassing! He’d grab a pack of gum and saunter over to my lane for me to “check him out.” (See what I did there?)
As he stood in the back of my line, I’d struggle to converse with my customers. I couldn’t make sense. Then I’d start dropping things.
I was a total mess. I blame love. Love makes you stupid.
At least at first it does.
And someone proved it! In this study from 2013 it was found that the beginning stages of a romantic relationship actually caused an impairment in cognitive function.
So What Do We Do About It?
It is helpful to consider how we can prepare ourselves for being stupid-in-love. If you aren’t in love now, be aware that one day, when you fall in love, you might not be in a healthy place to make important decisions. Be aware that you might need the help of trusted friends and family members to open your eyes to the truth that you can’t see.
And finally, don’t make any permanent decisions when you’re madly in love, emphasis on “mad.” Don’t use the madly in love moment to decide if you don’t agree with God’s standards for sexual purity, for example. Decide that now – beforehand. Don’t use the madly in love moment to decide to get married. Give yourself time to regain a healthy perspective, seeing all sides of that decision before you make such a life-altering choice.
And for all of you who have a friend who is in this position of love-stupidity, speak wisdom into their life as much as they allow you to. But most importantly, pray for them to regain a healthy perspective, and to make wise decisions in the meantime.
Pain Makes You Stupid
My friend’s mother was recently diagnosed with stage four cancer. My mom also has cancer, so my friend and I often talk about our experiences of grief. She was explaining to me what she calls “passive grief.”
Passive grief is that early stage of grieving when your mind is so wrapped up in the fog of pain that you can’t function normally in everyday life. During this stage, you might be lost in the fog of your thoughts (or lack of thoughts) and drive in a circle around the block instead of driving to the grocery store. Or you may get in the shower, and then get back out, not realizing that you never washed anything.
Grief isn’t the only kind of pain that affects our cognitive function. Physical pain can wrap around our brains in a similar way that impairs our thinking. Even high levels of stress can affect us as a form of pain.
In the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzalez, Gonzalez quoted his own father, a bomber pilot in World War II, as saying, “When you walk across the ramp to your airplane, you lose half your IQ.”1
So What Do We Do About It?
Give yourself grace when you are facing deep pain or stress. Don’t be upset with yourself, thinking that you should handle it better. Let your body process the pain in its natural way. This stage of confusion will likely only last a short while before you move into new stages of processing through your pain.
Take some things off of your plate if you are able to. Do the things that help your brain rest, such as taking a walk, playing a game on your phone, crying with a friend. Avoid substances such as alcohol or pills, except ones prescribed by a trusted doctor.
As you find some new space opening up in your mind, take time to pray about your feelings. Talk to God honestly about how you feel. Read through the Psalms to see that your feelings matter to God.
Talk to others, as well. They will be thankful to be invited in to your heart. They won’t know what to say, and may say some things that they regret later, but for you, opening up your heart will bring healing.
And a quick note for those friends: If your loved one is struggling through a time of pain or grief, you can help by being available to listen, by giving them space, by taking other responsibilities off their plate, and by reminding them of their compassionate and good God.
Sin Makes You Stupid
Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. It was beautiful. It was perfect! Every need they had was perfectly met. Their relationship with God was complete and unhindered. There was only one thing – one little thing – that they couldn’t have. That apple.
They didn’t need it. But they wanted it! And that desire called to them and nagged them until it couldn’t be ignored.
Have you ever felt temptation like that?
The temptation grew and grew until it blocked out the rational thoughts and left nothing but the desire. It demanded to be fed.
Similar to love, and similar to pain, desire fills our heads so entirely that common sense and wisdom are driven out. The tragedy of this is that desire can lead us blindly into a pit while our eyes are filled with visions of false beauty.
So What Do We Do About It?
So is there any hope for the sinner?
On one hand, yes, there is hope. The Bible is filled with warnings which are designed to prepare us in advance for the day when we face temptation so we aren’t caught unaware. We can look at that temptation and say, “I’ve heard about this. I know it isn’t good for me” and we can say “No!”
But it really isn’t that easy, is it? Those temptations don’t take no for an answer sometimes. They nag and poke and are difficult to ignore. That’s the reason why I’m so thankful for God’s help in our temptation. He’s given all of his children the Holy Spirit who is growing in us the self-control to say no to those temptations., and give us a way to escape any sin temptation. (I Corinthians 10:13 ESV)
But you will fail. I will fail. I know that God gives me a way to escape temptation but that I will choose to follow my sinful desires anyway.
My greatest relief is that God has provided a hope for you and for me even when we do sin – even knowing we will sin again. He has given us his Son – the sacrifice for our sin – so that we can be cleansed from our sin and have a joyful relationship with Him.
And when you are the friend who is watching your loved one fall into the stupidity of sin, my heart goes out to you! It is very hard to watch your friend fall into the trap of sin. The Bible tells us to treat these friends with gentleness, and to help them carry that burden of temptation in whatever way we can. (Galatians 6:1-3 ESV)
In Search of Wisdom
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
James 1:5 ESV
Don’t be surprised, friends, when love, pain, and desire make you stupid. A little bit of awareness and preparation can help you when that time comes.
And when those intense emotions crowd your mind and fog up your thoughts, look to your God, the giver of wisdom, who gives generously to us when we ask.
1Ripley, Amanda. The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – And Why. Crown Publishing Group, 2008.