One paragraph in David Leonhardt’s article, What Makes People Give?, particularly caught my interest.
It seems that economist Jonathan Gruber was intrigued when, after being elected treasurer of his synagogue in New Jersey, his father remarked, “Good, now I don’t have to go.”
Now, this sounds a bit counter-intuitive. You might think that the treasurer of a synagogue would feel that he should go more.
Reflecting on this comment, Gruber wondered if people who want to show a certain commitment level to a religious institutiton would consider attendance and duty as substitutes for each other.
When Gruber investigated, he found that when the tax code changed in the early 1990s to make deductions for charitable giving more valuable, the average churchgoer gave more money — and attended services less frequently. Gruber calls this “Pay or Pray.”
We take certain steps to affiliate ourselves with a certain idea, institution, practice, brand, or whatever. We have an idea of how committed we want to be, and we act accordingly.
So a question for all of us should be — am I behaving in a way that ACTUALLY provides the level of commitment that I want to attain? Or am I achieving this connection in a symbolic way, a way that may or may not be sufficient?
Watching CNBC doesn’t mean I’m paying attention to how my 401(k) is invested. Getting in political arguments isn’t the same as voting. Writing about happiness won’t make me happier unless I stick to my happiness resolutions.
Dr. Johnson, still interesting after all these years, made a related observation:
One sophism by which men persuade themselves that they have those virtues which they really want, is formed by the substitution of single acts for habits. A miser who once relieved a friend from the danger of a prison, suffers his imagination to dwell for ever upon his own heroick generosity…so vices are extenuated by the inversion of that fallacy…Those faults which we cannot conceal from our own notice, are considered, however frequent, not as habitual corruptions, or settled practices, but as casual failures, and single lapses.
Zoikes, every time I visit Unclutterer, I get a contact high from the thought of doing so much clutter-clearing. I love it.
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