What Motivates You? A Look at Root Sin

Written by Ann Burns

November 12, 2022

When the Villains are Beautiful

Many books, articles, and societal mantras encourage us to be ourselves. When we are ourselves, we can do anything.

Self-expression is idolized.

Self-help books are marketed as tools to help us “find ourselves” and regain our identity.

You’ve probably noticed: there’s a hyper-crazy focus on the self and the promise that when we find ourselves, we will find happiness and fulfillment.

But all of this happy talk begs the question: what do we mean by this? What are we hoping to find when we embark on a quest for self-knowledge in things outside ourselves?

To be more ourselves, we must lean into Christ and strive for holiness. We were made by God and for God, and only living a life congruent with that provides freedom. It’s like walking into a clean room; you’re free to move about, rest, and attend to the day’s needs. You’re not confined by mess.

It’s when we get to the core — am I living for Christ? — that we can adequately evaluate our lives. And to do that, an excellent place to start is by asking ourselves, “What am I motivated by?”

This question isn’t about material goals— the jeans you hope to fit into, the car you’d love to buy, or a project you want to accomplish. No. This is about what motivates you. What deep down in your heart and soul inspires your decisions and gives you drive?

What Motivates You?


Are you a perfectionist? Do you feel pressure always to do everything just right, and if not, you feel crippled. Thoughts like, “I’m a failure,” creep into your skull. Often this need for perfection comes with an overwhelming desire to be in control; we place our self-worth in our ability to get everything done and do it all.

When we are motivated by pride, we struggle with being receptive — Thy will be done — because instead, we desire MY will be done.

When we find ourselves aching for control, ultimately, we lack confidence in Christ because our Faith is in ourselves, and as finite beings, we will always fall short. The result? Our pride morphs into feeling sorry for ourselves.

To reorder our motivations and place Christ back at the center, we need to grow in holy receptivity and confidence in the will of God. This can be scary. What is God asking of me rather than what am I demanding? We might be afraid of the answer. If we struggle with pride, we should pray for the virtue of Faith.


Another root sin that can motivate us is sensuality; this is when we desire comfort and pleasure first.

Sensuality is all about today. Am I living my best life? If sensuality is our motivator, we are probably consumed by our emotions, feelings, and a disordered desire for pleasure: where to eat, vacation, etc. This motivator leads to an unhealthy attachment to this world. We live for fun and allow our emotions to dictate. Thus we forget about striving for Heaven, our true home.

If this is the case, we should pray for the virtue of Hope, “the theological virtue of hope is the power by which we desire the Kingdom of Heaven as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our strength, but on the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

Both of these root sins, pride and sensuality, can also lead to being overly concerned with what other people think of us.

When we lose sight of Christ, we focus on something else. And sometimes that is the opinion of others. It is in those opinions that we seek security and self-worth.

One of my favorite quotes is by author Elizabeth Gilbert, who stated that when she was young, she used to worry about what others thought of her, and when she grew up, she decided she didn’t care; this was liberating. However, it wasn’t until she grew into her wiser years that she realized all these people she was so concerned about weren’t ever thinking about her in the first place. This quote perfectly reveals that when we put an excessive amount of stock into the approval of others, we give into pride, assuming that everyone around us is really that obsessed with us.

“What is this in light of eternity?”

In order to truly find ourselves, we have to uproot the mess that prevents us from becoming the saints we are called to be. Ultimately, we need to be motivated by Christ and acknowledge our real longing for eternity. It is only then that we will be free to be all that we were made to be.



We will be continuing the discussion in our book club on November 14 at 7 PM Eastern time as we discuss Walking with Purpose by Lisa Brenninkmeyer. 

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