Why do we act?
When we were members of the church, we knew very acutely how many rules and laws and words of wisdom and commandments we had to follow. Why did we keep up with it then…and why do we do what we do now? What motivates us to act?
For the past few weeks, I have been doing a lot of recruiting and networking events. I’m not even going to lie — even in such a poor economy, I’m living quite well as multiple accounting firms try to convince me to intern for their firm. So, included with that are all kinds of fringe benefits — plenty of events and activities and dinners and mixers and whatnot.
And I dunno…maybe it’s a Texas thing…but many times at these various events, they’ll only have two drinks available — tea and water. And even at one, they only had one drink available: tea. I don’t know what happened to the water.
So, I guess this is no big deal for everyone else and I’m putting a magnifying glass on something that is really quite trivial to everyone else, but occasionally, I have been asked why I won’t touch my glass.
“I don’t drink tea.”
Well, ok…but why not? This is Texas, after all! (I’ve had someone say that).
In a previous life, it would have been so easy to say, “Because of my religion.” But, I realize this is a copout answer (and not even a true copout answer for me). I mean, certainly people would understand if it was against your religion…but seriously, is that it?
Personally, I had tea once (actually, a few times, just to confirm)…it was disgusting (maybe that’s the sin I’ve been hiding all along that destroyed faith!). But that’s also a copout answer (because there are many things I have not tried [which coincidentally also fit in the word of wisdom], so I couldn’t necessarily use that excuse).
But it seems to me…that we should be acting not because our religion restrains us (which is what the answer, “Because of my religion” so often sounds like), but because we personally are motivated not to do certain things and are motivated to do other things. I can say even now…I am not motivated to drink, so I do not. I’ve seen others succumb to the peer pressure, but maybe I’m a robot and immune to it. Whatever the case is, if I don’t want to do something, I’m not going to do it*. (Unfortunately for my bishop and parents, I suppose, this also applies to the church or parental requests.) *But perhaps the whole point of peer pressure is that group pressure can change your very wants.
And I guess that’s how I’ve changed since then. The difference since leaving the church has been that I am more flexible with my motivations and demotivations. I don’t have to feel bad or guilty for wanting something that was bad just because the church said it was so.
So, what’s been more interesting of a question to me is…how do we want to do certain things, and learn to want to not do other things? It’s easy to realize that “we act because we are motivated to act in certain ways.” And it’s also easy to recognize that, with free will, we can choose to act against our natural motivations (although the jury is out on whether this is a net positive in all cases). But this just backs the question up one step, and now we have to wonder about what motivates us and how we can change these motivations.