performance orientation

With almost 5,000 views (as of September 2017) this post from March 2006 is one my most popular.

From the Elijah House School for Prayer Ministry Basic I training manual:
”Performance orientation is a term that refers neither to the work we do nor the things we accomplish, but to the false motives, which propel us to do what we do. Once we bring performance orientation to death, we can find worth or value in who we are, not just in what we do.”
I think that we can all relate to false motives ... things that drive us and compel us to do very religious things for all of the wrong reasons. I was once ... and sometimes am ... such a one. If you are interested in my journey read Confessions of a Charismatic Fundamentalist. Most of what I expound here I learned from my Elijah House training ... you can go to their website for more information.

Performance Orientation (PO) is something that is often learned very early in life. It shows up later in life with behaviors that are often identified with ‘people pleasing’, workaholism, compulsiveness, and self-righteousness ... to name a few. Early in life we are often given messages of conditional love and embrace a lifestyle of earning other’s love. A parent may confuse a child by combining the child's performance of good deeds with statements of affirmation and love ... and the child may not understand that the parent really loves them for who they are. This is problematic because the child grows up thinking that love is a reward for ‘being good’.

Many, when they come to Christ, come with PO. A person like this will often embrace the legalistic side of the scriptures and, like myself, live their faith out of a complex set of rules and principles. These live their faith lives not understanding that they are suppressing and covering over the good heart that they received at salvation. They live life from the head with ideas that their hearts cannot be trusted because they are deceitful. These folks will always gravitate to a black and white interpretation of the scripture because of the appeal to their head ... for the gray matters belong to the heart.

Healing for PO is a process of healing the heart. From the Elijah House manual:
”Healing will not come by our own efforts, nor by finding new and better ways to perform.
We must invite God to slay us, and let others minister to us.
Performance orientation requires relationship in order to be healed.”
If you identify with PO here are a few things to consider:
  • God loves you as you are ... you can’t do anything to make Him love you more.
  • Wounds of your past may need to be addressed ... you might need some help to address these wounds.
  • You may need to change the major influencers in your life ... people who continue to feed your PO are a part of the problem.
  • Build relationships with people who accept you and see the best in you ... we all need encouragers.
Last year in prayer I sensed the Lord speak to me ... He said “When you embrace your heart you will embrace Me”. It was a difficult message for someone who has lived most of his life out of his head and not his heart ... but it was a needed message. Believers, embrace your good heart today and stop trying to earn His love by being good ... it will be good for your heart.


  1. Your words on this topic are like the medicine of the good samaritan to the broken and beaten traveler bruised by thieves. They are like the salve that the samaritan places in the cut wounds of the traveler. My name is Ryan and I am entirely ravaged by Performance Orientation. Please pray for me that Jesus will heal me and deliver me completely. I believe He sent you through your trial to help me. As Paul writes, we comfort others with the comfort that we've received from God ourselves.

  2. Glad the post helped Ryan! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Thank you Bob for this simple reminder on a often too big problem. My testimony about PO is that the Lord said the following to me to start the process: I made you just for fun, Sven.
    My first reaction was " am I not more worth than that? Just for fun, Huh." Then I saw this great great secret. I am made for his pleasure and our mutual friendship. As my children is a gift to me, I am a gift to Him. I fulfill my purpose by just being me, relating more and more to Him who loves me so. When I abide in Him, the fruit starts coming, because he is a fruit tree.

  4. Enjoyed that comment Sven! Healthy relationships should be fun.

  5. These live their faith lives not understanding that they are suppressing and covering over the good heart that they received at salvation. They live life from the head with ideas that their hearts cannot be trusted because they are deceitful.

    I'm currently kind of having an ongoing conversation with an online friend about this. Having myself left the reformed (Calvinist) line of thinking over the last couple of years, it is hard to get her to understand that I'm not saying we of ourselves are good, but that HE HAS MADE US GOOD. Our hearts can now be trusted to lead us into a life of faith and good deeds, not because we are covered by His blood (which is also true I suppose) but because He HAS given us new hearts. We are no longer desperately wicked. THAT was a big one for me that has given me the most peace.

    1. So amazingly simple Ma. I spent three different times explaining this to a friend before he got it. I told him that if his heart was desperately wicked then he would be better off leaning on his own understanding than trusting God with all of his heart.

  6. Jesus says to us through the Bible go into all the world and preach the gospel. And you decide to kick back and enjoy the good life. Is that what you mean by not being performance orientated?

    If God said suffer hardship as a good solider and you say we should not be put out. Is that rejecting performance based life?

    Jesus says to us through the Bible can't you pray with me one hour and you say watch a movie instead. Is that rejecting performance based?

    Jesus says to us through the Bible pray for laborers to go and into the field and reap, and you decide to ignore the reaping and praying for others to help. Is that rejecting performance orientation?

    Jesus says to us through the Bible help others and not just please yourself, you decide to please yourself instead of pleasing others. Is that rejecting performance orientation life?

    Jesus says to us through the Bible to not love the world. If our heart wants to go along to get along, is it rejecting performance orientation to go along to get along?

  7. How would a performance orientated person react to carrying our cross?
    How would the opposite of the above act?

    Luke 9:23 "3 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."

    1. Thanks for the comments Scott. According to the definition I used in the post, performance orientation is a term that refers neither to the work we do nor the things we accomplish, but to the false motives, which propel us to do what we do.

      So if a person preaches the gospel to win God's love or favor then he would be suffering under performance orientation. Likewise, whatever we do, we should do it firmly entrenched in the belief that we are working with God and not performing or working to win his approval.

    2. But you say we are covering over the good heart we receive at salvation. And I am saying we are ignoring the good heart we receive at salvation and live from our flesh, completely ignoring what God has asked us to do. This is what I see the vast majority of Christians doing.

      God has asked us to love others. We see that as impossible and so live for our pleasure. We just give God 2 hours on Sunday morning and live for our selves and our desires. God's desires are not even thought of.

      How can someone ignore obedience and say he loves God. God says we show our love by our obedience.

      To break from legal service and serve God with love and joy comes from prayer and meditation and giving up our life to follow Christ.

      God loves people as they are, but they will still go to hell even though God loves them.

      Christians are married to Jesus in the spirit.

      So I say to my wife. Wife, I have been serving you from a performance orientation. I know you love me so I'm going to kick back and watch the tube. You can do all the house work and make all the money.

    3. "I am saying we are ignoring the good heart we receive at salvation and live from our flesh"

      I agree with that Scott yet the point I am making is not so much what we are doing but why we are doing it. Is our motive to serve God with our own understanding and perform for Him? Or is our motive to serve and love Him in whatever we are doing. I think that motives make a big difference.

      Regarding what we do I think that we can serve the Lord in many different ways. Many people loved the Lord in the NT but all were not called into apostolic or pastoral ministry. Yet all were called in whatever they did to serve the Lord with all their being. All are called to love the people that they work with and live close to. We are all commanded to to share Christ in all we do and say.

      I know that you know these things and I think that I am simply not getting what you are trying to communicate. Yet your last statements seems to speak to someone who really never loved their wife but just liked the idea of being married and did the things commensurate with being married. And then they decided that since they never really loved their wife they may as well not even bother pretending. I do not see that person as ever having a real relationship with their wife.

      What I am saying is that (using your example) our motives in serving our spouse should not be about doing the things that we think that they expect us to do. I think that such motives produce bad fruit - like bitterness when we do those things and they do not show appreciation for them. Instead our motives should be to deeply connect with our spouse so that we really know them and understand the things that bring them joy. Being in this kind of relationship fosters continual loving conversation and understanding.

      Hope that helps. I appreciate your sharing here and your patience.

    4. My main emphasis is that Christianity is not a life of faith alone. Yes we are born in faith. But a baby grows up. And in remembering that person. They don't so much talk of his birth but of his life. What he did. Who he was.

      Christianity lived day to day is a life of actions.

      But there is much action to please man. We should be people that strive to please God. Gal 1:10 Our actions should be based on pleasing God. Serving others as unto God. Not serving others to be seen by man.

      But if our heart is not in serving God then there needs to be repentance.

    5. "Christianity lived day to day is a life of actions."

      No disagreement with that Scott. James says faith without actions is not faith at all. My thinking is that our lives should be filled with the fruit and activity of the Holy Spirit.

      Again though it goes back to what you indicated earlier. Are we performing religious acts from our flesh or is living water bubbling up from our innermost being?

  8. wow!!!! love your heart Kansas Bob!!! thank you for all your sharing!


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