ALL or Nothing.

I had my fair share of missed assignments in high school, for some reason or another. 

However, I remember very vividly completing a worksheet for my 10th grade English class. When I went to turn in the assignment the next day, I realized I had left it at home. 

I was devastated...ashamed. 

My English teacher, Mr. Morone, had a classroom policy that any forgotten/incomplete homework could be turned in the next day. The understanding was that even a perfect assignment would have to be reduced to a B because it was late—an automatic 10 points off. 

It was simple.

All I had to do was turn in my assignment the next day, and get a B. (I was a stellar English student, and one of Morone’s favorites.) 

I got a zero. 

I never turned in the assignment.

Photo By: Jonny Clow

Photo By: Jonny Clow

I made the choice to NOT turn in the assignment the next day. I was too embarrassed to consider turning in the assignment late. I felt I deserved a zero for being so careless, and so I took it. 

Of course that doesn’t make any sense! 

But that is one example of many that I could give of my “ALL or Nothing” mentality:

It’s either I turned my assignment in on time and got an “A” or a don’t turn the assignment in at all and get the zero. 

(In my twisted thinking turning it in late and getting something other than an A or zero simply was not an option.) 

Unlearning the "all or nothing" way of thinking has been key on my journey to renewing my mind, but every now and then I revert back to it. 


In Psychology, “All or Nothing” (or Polarized) thinking is considered a cognitive (mental process) distortionan incorrect, yet automatic way of interpreting situations that do not take into considerations other ways of thinking about them. 

An "All or Nothing" mentality basically says, if a situation falls short of perfect it’s a total failure. This kind of thinking has been linked to anxiety and depression.

(It can also pose a serious threat to marriage. For example, an "all or nothing" thinker will fail to see the benefits of compromise or may more quickly believe their marriage is a failure when trying times come.) 

"All or Nothing" thinkers view life through a distorted lens of extremes and/or absolutes. They tend to think in terms of always, never, impossible, perfect, etc.


Managing money properly has been critical for us over the last few months. It hasn’t always been sweet or easy, but I’m thankful for a solid life partner in Danny.

(Where fear may limit my view to two extreme options, faith fuels Danny’s creativity to see the many options available to us. His leadership in our home has both stretched me and increased my faith.)  

Yesterday, I found myself frustrated and wishing I could either sleep away the next few days or wake up again and start over. 

We needed to make a payment but we also needed to wisely manage all our funds. Danny was off to work so I would need to step up and take the reins.

...I honestly didn’t want to deal with it. 

According to my “all or nothing” thinking, if we couldn’t make the entire payment now, then we wouldn’t be able to make a payment at all. 

And if we couldn’t make the payment at all, well, then that would be trouble to my anxiety-prone soul. 

(Of course nagging Danny to help me figure out something while he was at work would defeat the whole purpose of him having a life partner with a flexible schedule who is just as capable.)

I resigned to doing nothing because I didn’t think there was anything I could do. I decided I would fill Danny in once he got home. 

Then a mind shift came. I was reminded by Holy Spirit that Danny and I had been through much worse, and Jehovah Jireh had done what He always does, He provided.

My eyes were opened to the fact that God had already made provision for this need, I just needed to act as a faithful steward. I knew what I needed to do. 

Taking the necessary steps to make a partial payment may seem like common sense. But for a recovering “all or nothing” thinker, it wasn’t something I could mentally process.

Past rejections, as well as the shame, embarrassment, and devastation (I experienced in my feelings) of not being able to pay in full overshadowed that sensible option, and the provision that was available to me. 

Once I had the right perspective, I realized the impossible situation wasn't impossible at all!

As I was going throughout the day, I was reminded,

“It’s not always all or nothing.” 

Yes, in a world that increasingly embraces relativism, we need to stand for Truth.

We need to make the lines of demarcation clear when it comes to good and evil, truth and a lie, love and hate. 

But it’s equally important that we remember it’s not always all or nothing.

Just because you may not have it all, doesn’t mean you’ve been left with nothing.

Even on days we’ve written off as “bad,” there’s usually some good to be found.

Cultivating correct thinking takes effort but having the right perspective is many times all the change we need!

Cheers to right thinking!