Why do we act?

Andrew SWord of Wisdom 7 Comments

So, the church has a lot of commandments, pieces of advice, laws, words of wisdom (both the specific one and ones more generic). You might say that the church is…I dunno…demanding?

So why do we keep up with it? Why do we persist?

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 many ways, it would be 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, since I’m living on the dark side of the moon now). I mean, certainly people would understand if it was against your religion…but seriously, is that it?

Personally, I had tea once…it was disgusting. 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…and maybe this is dark-side-of-the-moon thinking…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…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.

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.

Comments 7

  1. I’ve tasted iced tea a time or two after mistaking it for some kind of punch. I have to agree with Andrew. People drink this stuff on purpose? I had the same, but even stronger response when I tried non-alcoholic beer.

  2. Of course, I’ve considered the possibility that it’s the ethanol that makes the beer taste good. However, I’m pretty sure that the flavor of NA beer and alcoholic beer is close enough that I wouldn’t like either one. However, I’ll never know. I of course knew that beer was made from yeast, but it never occurred to me that it would taste like yeast. I assumed that something in the brewing process would remove the yeast flavor. All the millennia they’ve been making the stuff and nobody’s ever tried to get rid of that awful yeast flavor?

    I can’t stomach peanut butter either. It makes no difference whether it’s Jiff, Peter Pan, or store brand. It all tastes bad. Connoisseurs of beer and peanut butter may tell me I’ve just not tried the good stuff. I don’t think so. It’s still beer and peanut butter.

    If you love Coke, then the flavor of the caffeine-free stuff might not be to your liking. For the rest of us, it still just tastes like Coke. If caffeine-free Coke tasted like orange juice, they wouldn’t call it Coke. If NA beer didn’t taste anything like beer, they’d call it Postum or something.

  3. Re: “why do we act”
    I’m sneaky. I have had this exact conversation (i.e. “why don’t you drink your tea?”), and I have a standard answer for it: “Do you want the short answer or the long answer?”
    They usually say “short.” So I say “I believe that God has told me that *I* shouldn’t drink tea. So I don’t.”
    They then sit there, mouth agape, and ask “so what’s the long answer?” At this point I usually do a longer answer about the Word of Wisdom as a whole, but keep it very personal. I don’t say “Joseph Smith said I shouldn’t drink it,” or anything like that. I describe the WoW in terms of being presented to me as something that God would want, and I asked Him about whether the WoW was His will for me and how I felt that it was, etc. You get the idea.
    Sometimes in there, I also start referring to tea as “boiled water over weeds” in a kind of snarky fashion.
    After all of this, they usually offer me coffee instead, and I have to start the conversation over. 🙂 I have had a number of very good “missionary moments” by giving people the option of the “long v. short answer.” It’s often seductively easy to push off our choices as a group rule or blanket mandate, but when you come down to it, we each have to decide to act or not, and we should realize and take ownership of *why* we *individually* are acting that way.

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