Beholding and Becoming

Rule 20. Only study that which you wish to become, by beholding you become changed

As a small boy my mom had me listen to the New Amplified Version of the Pilgrim’s Progress. This rule is the substance of what I learned from it. “By beholding you become changed.” It is not something you will find in the original text of Pilgrim’s Progress, but is an underlying principle throughout the book.

pilgrim's progress

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The clearest illustration of it is the story of the Muck Raker. The Interpreter shows Christiana and her children a man standing in muck. He had become so consumed with the filth before him that he did not see the offering of a celestial crown from heaven. But rather he focused on the muck and filth before him. The longer he stared at the muck the more he became like it.

muck raker

Thou hast said the right, said he, and his muck-rake doth show his carnal mind.

Now, whereas it was also showed thee, that the man could look no way but downwards, it is to let thee know that earthly things, when they are with power upon men’s minds, quite carry their hearts away from God.

– The Interpreter Pilgrim’s Progress

What a person reads, watches, listens to makes who they are. Any time you want a look at who a person is all you need to do is look at their bookshelf, DVD shelf, or iTunes library. We need to be careful about what we take into our minds, what you take in doesn’t leave you, it becomes a part of who you are.


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There was a book I once read for a class, Dedication and Leadership by Douglas Hyde. The book outlined a few of the training methods by communists in the 1950’s. Written by a former member of the communist party, it was an interesting, if not excellent, read.


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One specific thing I will remember is a story he told about some Vietnamese students he knew. The author enjoyed the folk music of Vietnam when he was there, but was unable to bring any of it back with him. While in Paris he told a few students he was staying with his problem. They went to a record store and his host picked through the records and found a  record of “authentic” Vietnamese folk music.

There was one hitch, it was a “Northern” Vietnamese record, the lyrics of the song were communist rhetoric. They went home and listened to the record.

As a consequence, for the following week they were likely to go around singing its revolutionary words to themselves. The Communists message would be going continuously through their minds.

– Dedication and Leadership

John Wayne once said, “Act like the man you want to be.” We need to remember that also means reading the books that will make us who we want to be.


One thought on “Beholding and Becoming

  1. Makes me think of the verse in Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Because what you think about and expose yourself to shapes you. Good post. Thanks.

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