Thin Slices

by Apr 10, 2016Cultivate2 comments

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explains how small, snapshot moments—those when we act from our intuition, often thinking and acting without even realizing it—those are the moments that make all the difference. He writes:

“When it comes to the task of understanding ourselves and our world, I think we pay too much attention to those grand themes and too little to the particulars of those fleeting moments.”

This idea jumped off the page as I read, calling to mind Romans 12:2:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (NIV).

I wonder, how do we retrain our minds ahead of time to respond to familiar triggers in those small moments that make all the difference? How can we be transformed by the renewing of our instincts?

As a person who is highly empathetic and intuitive, I can get trapped in feeling the emotions of others and reacting instead of choosing to respond from who I am and how I feel. My internal state can quickly mirror the environment around me. Yet, I realize that staying authentic and grounded in my true, in-the-process-of-redemption self is the only way I can lead with hope and spearhead building community in places where people arrive on scene with feelings of disconnection or fear.

What truths have reverberated in your heart within the heated, flooded moment, and how have they made a difference?
Bit by bit, how do you see yourself being made new in the micro, in those thin-slice moments?

There is a profound layering of truth and invitation to transformation in Romans 12 that hints at preparing and living authentically in those thin slices:

The call to be transformed by the renewing of your mind (12:2)
So that you can discern between what is good and evil (12:2)
And live authentically, using your gifts (12:3-8)
Loving in action, in that heated or vital moment of decision (12:9-20)
Becoming rooted and free, not swept away but able to “overcome evil with good” (12:21)

Isn’t this what we desire as leaders? To love in action, in the moment, when it really counts?

What are your derailing moments, those moments when you slip from who you want to be, from the beautiful, whole person you’re becoming in Christ?

If you’re like me, it can be hard to think of those derailing moments on the spot, but I experience them in a sinking feeling, realizing that I’ve reacted from suspicion or fear rather than Christ’s love and trust.

In each of my triggering moments, I am on a journey to align back to who I want to be, to imitating Christ in his example of loving action through a renewed and healthy mindset. I’ve been noticing my derailing moments and thinking of a fresh response that’s connected to who Christ says I am. And then the key of change: His Spirit is opening my eyes to notice when the moment I can choose to respond in love is before me. I’m catching myself in that thin slice, becoming more able to see and choose between the old derailing pathway in my brain or the new loving action I desire.

In these moments of decision, the Holy Spirit coaches me to slow down. He instructs me to forgive. And his truth is setting me free. In that thin slice, He’s transforming my instincts.

Try this:

Each evening this week, take a moment to reflect on your day. Do this by yourself or maybe with a loved one, spouse, or roommate who can debrief with you.

What was one moment today when you felt most alive and whole—when you acted in a way that was consistent with who you’re becoming?

What was one moment when you felt derailed, when you didn’t live consistently with the true person you’re becoming? What is one specific way you could respond differently, more authentically to who Christ says you are, when this situation or emotion arises again?

I’d love to hear what invitations you’re noticing as you reflect this week.


  1. Sarah Bond

    Joy, yes! There is such hope in new choices and growing awareness through the Holy Spirit–bit by bit!

  2. Joy Martin

    “triggering moments” …yes! I relate so well. Thanks for this good word, Sarah. Realigning…bit by bit! 😉

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