How To Think Like the Devil

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After 17 years of marriage, a man dumped his wife for a younger woman. The downtown apartment was in his name and he wanted to remain there with his new love so he asked the wife to move out and explained that he would buy her another place. The wife agreed to this, but asked that she be given 3 days on her own there to pack up her things.

While he was gone the first day, she lovingly put her personal belongings into boxes and crates and suitcases. On the second day she had the movers come and collect her things. On the third day she sat down for the last time at their candlelit dining table, soft music playing in the background, and feasted on a pound of shrimp and a bottle of chardonnay. When she had finished, she went into each room and deposited a few of the resulting shrimp shells into the hollow of the curtain rods. She then cleaned up the kitchen and left.
After three days, the husband came back with his new girl and all was bliss for the first few days. Then it started, slowly but surely. Clueless, the man could not explain why the place smelled so bad. They tried everything; cleaned and mopped and aired the place out. Vents were checked for dead rodents, carpets were steam cleaned, air fresheners were hung everywhere. Exterminators were brought in, the carpets were replaced, and on it went.
Finally, they could take it no more and decided to move. The moving company arrived and did a very professional packing job, taking everything to their new home… including the curtain rods.

If the husband in our story had the ability to “Think like the Devil,” he would have figured out that his estranged wife was behind the stench in his house. No to strategize in a pro-active way can cost time, energy and money. Not to mention singed nose hairs!

So, what does it mean to “Think Like the Devil?” If you to step outside the bubble your life and activities for a moment and objectively analyze what might possibly go right and what could seriously go wrong in your lifetime, then you’re beginning to get there. If you learn to visualize what those who might criticize your ideas and actions might bring to light, then you’re getting closer. When you come to objectively focus and act on those things that lead to a solution rather than be distracted by hurdles and problems, then you’ve got it.  You are “Thinking Like the Devil.”

First, Think Adversarially

If someone were to oppose your favorite, most creative ideas, full-force, what would they pick out as your weaknesses and faulty areas? How would they shoot you down? What would be unrealistic and condemnable? So, in order to wise up, think about your worst-case scenarios. What could go wrong and who would oppose you to make things fail? What horrendous mistake might devour your life, take you down and drown you in the muck and mire?

Second, Think Deceptively

People are rarely honest face to face. Think about what they might say if they were to gossip about you behind your back. Where is the deception in what people tell you and how might you read between the lines? The best way to develop this skill is to ask a lot of questions like, “If you could say anything you wanted about my situation without any concerns for my reaction, what might it be?” or “What am I not getting here?”

Third, Think Accusingly

It’s like being in the courtroom. There’s the Judge before you. You have retained a lawyer. Across from you is your Prosecutor. He makes it his job to make you look bad, point out your long laundry list of failures. He wants you to fail. It is to his advantage if you lose your case. Some people seem to have what they might call the “gift of criticism.” If there’s truth to their critical accusations, turn them into growth goals, if not consider the source and move.

As they say, the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions. Still, good intentions do matter. Even though a person may make mistakes, if they mean well, it is easier to give them some “error space.” When you are accused for sincere actions, and expect that to happen, you’re, you know thinking like the Devil.


If I were the Devil . . .

I’d make sure you were occupied and preoccupied,

Busy with the little things in life, things leading to strife.

Focusing on the detailed things, going in circular rings,

By running around, being completely bound

To the tyranny of the urgent, making your life spent.

Not on what matters, but on what shatters.

Your relationships and friends, would be brought to an end.

For in them you are secure, hopeful for sure.

If I were the Devil, I’d attack and revel,

In your very areas of weakness and speak less,

Of your strengths and go to great lengths,

To point out your faults, pouring into wounds, salts,

That would itch and burn, making you yearn

For something more, sensing that you’re poor.

No, that’s not what I meant, don’t feel spent,

Searching in desperate cries, for the help that in God lies.

Just be content within your own self.



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