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The PIC Approach – If It’s True For Me, Isn’t It True For You?

Rolfe Carawan

We all know one. That irritating individual who – self-aware or not – speaks with such force and certainty that you naturally assume they must be right in what they are saying. When relating to such a person, it becomes abundantly clear that they believe that their way of doing something is the “correct” way. And you're to do it the same way because it has been voiced more than once, “It’s my way or the highway!” However, we all know that there is usually more than one way to “skin a cat.”

In our previous blog, we mentioned that we live in a world that is governed by laws and rules that press down upon everyone, everywhere. Laws that are so dependable they can be applied and work regardless of the differing circumstances. They are physical laws, or “laws of nature,” that operate 24/7, 365 days a year.

Just like natural laws, there are laws that govern relationships and community living. We call these universal principles. We equip our coaches, mentors, and lay ministers with the PIC Approach, a process for identifying the unseen laws of relationships and of God’s Kingdom. We are convinced that when God created the universe, He also made moral and relational laws that apply to everyone.

Much of our culture's natural confusion today is because we have stopped looking for God’s laws or don’t even believe they exist. This has left us in the condition that Israel found themselves as described in Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel; each one did what was right in his own eyes.” There is no agreed upon source of authority then everyone just lives by their personal convictions and by what they “feel” is right and, “each one does what is right in his own eyes.”

To move forward in this blog, we have to accept the premise that there is objective truth, and that this truth can be discovered. Truth is found in the living Word, Jesus, as revealed through the written word, the Bible. God is the ultimate authority, creator, and King. As such, He revealed how His world works best, including relationships. Therefore, if we accepted His authority, and obeyed it, then life and relationships would flourish. Unfortunately, not everyone believes that Jesus is King and that He has established universal principles by design and proclamation.

But if you can accept it, the PIC Approach (a way to differentiate between principles, instructions and convictions) will help you see the world and relationships in a new light. Just as God reveals universal principles, He provides helpful instructions as well. But what are instructions good for? There are times when we have embraced a principle but may stumble over how that principle will operate in our life and daily routine. This is where instructions are helpful.


God created the family to pass on values, beliefs, understanding, and wisdom from one generation to the next. That includes their education, both intellectual and spiritual.


For example, I believe that God’s original design, and a universal principle, is that parents are responsible for the training of their children. God created the family to pass on values, beliefs, understanding, and wisdom from one generation to the next. That includes their education, both intellectual and spiritual. Therefore, as a Christian, I am responsible for training my children in the ways of the Lord as instructed in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 as well as other places in the Bible. With this principle in mind, how does this impact the educational choices I make for my family? How should I apply this in our current culture? It’s not an easy answer for many.

Public schools are growing increasingly secular in America and frequently teach values and philosophies contrary to Christian beliefs. What might be helpful to know about educating my children in 21st-century America? Options for homeschooling or Christian schooling? What if I am a single parent or both parents work? How do I decide what is right for me and my children?

Because the Bible does not give explicit instructions on exactly how to apply this principle, where do we find help to inform our decision? We might get insight and understanding from other people’s experiences. Their insights could help instruct us on how the principle can be applied in our situation. However, it is incumbent on us to discern whether the advice or information helps us live out Biblical principles and truths. Ultimately, you need the Holy Spirit to instruct you in applying the principle in your situation. He is the surest path to clarity for making decisions. The challenge is giving others the freedom to discover how to apply a principle in their circumstances, which could look very different than your own.


Jesus was very vocal about how problematic it was to confuse principles, instructions, and convictions and then impose them all on others. In Matthew 23 we see how Jesus scolded the Pharisees, who turned their instructions and convictions into laws that were forced upon the Jewish people. The consequence of creating that system of hypocrisy, control, and bondage provoked Christ’s condemnation. In verse 33, He described the Pharisees as “snakes.” Then He asked how they would escape being condemned to hell. In Luke 11:46 Jesus also said, “How terrible for you, you experts on the law! You make strict rules that are very hard for people to obey, but you yourselves don’t even try to follow those rules.” They had become legalistic and imposed their legalism on others.

It’s so easy and common to tell others how they ought to live and “share” how something “worked for us,” and “they should do it our way.” But why should we do it their way when it clearly won’t work for us? Why did they do it that way in the first place, and should we follow their example? Here is the thing: providing an instruction alone, without providing the “why” behind it, or identifying the universal principle that informs one’s advice, can add confusion and guilt rather than freedom. As coaches, mentors, and lay ministers, do we take the time to find out what is really going on with a person who has come to us for help, or do we immediately launch into expressing our “helpful” instructions and convictions?

For example, when some read Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” it is perceived as a principle. It becomes a rule that everyone is supposed to follow every time, and if someone goes to bed angry, they are sinning. Consequently, if they get into a disagreement with someone, they may insist that both parties stay up talking all night until reconciled so they don’t sin, while missing the heart of the issue. Instead, they may need to take a moment, spend some time in prayer, and revisit the issue in the morning with fresh eyes and a soft heart. So rather than a helpful instruction, it becomes legalism which could be very frustrating for others. On the other hand, if both parties have embraced the exhortation as a personal conviction to never go to bed angry, it could become a wonderful life-giving practice for them.


Whether fearful of sounding like a know it all, of being rejected, or simply due to being influenced by the culture, we find that many Christians opt for another approach – reducing principles down to helpful instructions or even someone’s personal conviction. In today’s culture we are bombarded with the message that everything is relative.

At the beginning of this blog, we started from the premise that there is absolute Truth, however some people refuse to believe that? Without Truth, we are left with moral relativism which declares, “there is no Truth.” (Despite the reality that this is a self-refuting because declaring that “there is no Truth,” is a truth claim itself.) Consequently, principles get demoted to the realm of helpful instructions or merely one’s personal conviction. This adds to our confusion because people now speak in terms of “my truth” and “your truth,” even when these “truths” may be diametrically opposed to one another. Yet still the claim is made—there is no truth! That’s nonsensical.

Why this Matters

Understanding how to identify core principles and differentiating them from instructions has had a profound impact on my marriage and children. Lea and I began to work together to identify the principles we both believed and wanted to live out in our relationship. We began to meditate on and apply the principles individually and then discuss them together. Over time we’ve learned we don’t need to figure out how each other should apply them, because that’s a job for the Holy Spirit.

With our children, I found that I often exacerbated a problem by trying to relay principles, instructions, and my own personal convictions simultaneously. That made it easy for them to ignore what I was saying. Especially when I started by trying to tell them what they should be doing and how they ought to be doing it, without giving the foundation for why.

Things began to change when I learned to speak in terms of principles, instructions, and personal convictions. (We will dive into convictions in greater detail in our next blog.) When we began to dialogue about the principles of God’s design and the benefits of doing things His way, it gave them a choice. Space was created for them to consider the truth of the principle and then seek God for how it applies to their unique circumstances.


Learning to identify foundational principles and presenting them clearly without apology took the pressure off me. Admitting that I didn’t know how a particular principle applied to their situation kept me from the temptation to voice my own personal convictions.


Learning to identify foundational principles and presenting them clearly without apology took the pressure off me. Admitting that I didn’t know how a particular principle applied to their situation kept me from the temptation to voice my own personal convictions. My goal became to provide them with a safe place to process and ask questions as they formed their own beliefs, while at the same time giving them foundational concepts and helpful instructions to build upon. This showed them respect as well as gave them a chance to benefit from someone’s life experience. Often that resulted in them asking for advice on how to apply the principle. In that process, I became the catalyst for life-giving choices.

One example is when our children were approaching dating age, I was tempted to sit them down and tell them all the things I had learned about dating. Instead, we decided to start with a different approach. We told them they were allowed to date once they could tell us what they believed about dating. We asked them to describe God’s design for a romantic relationship then identify any principles and instructions they could find in the Bible. Finally, we asked them to simply tell us what their personal conviction is around dating. When they could do that, they were free to date.

We were shocked at the impact of that little exercise. In her usual form, our daughter wrote out a very thorough paper with all the elements we asked for. She did it within a few months and was ready to go. On the other hand, our son considered it for a couple of years and finally verbalized a very clear understanding of dating in a few simple words. Both had come to a beautiful understanding of the “why” behind dating and had formed their own convictions. In their cases, they found a path toward marriage that included very little dating, and it produced great fruit. Both are now married to someone with similar faith, values, and commitment to their lifelong covenant.

Here is a challenge, consider a helpful instruction you have heard in your past or recognize in something you recently heard or read. Why do you think it is an instruction, not a universal principle or personal conviction? Does it reinforce or relate to a core truth or principle? If so, what is the principle? When you learned this, was it presented as a helpful Instruction? If not, how was it presented? Welcome to the journey!

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