Note: At least four interesting things, none quite what is usual in the popular media, have come in by email or FB about Charlottesville. I will be turning these around a bit in my mind before posting. If at all.
I recommend, for your edification, The Ben Franklin Effect. I first ran across it in Tavris and Aronson's book Mistakes Were Made, though it did seem dimly familiar, and I may have run across it before. In my cynical way, I have usually thought of it in the negative: the more you give someone, the less grateful they are. This includes things they don't officially know you have given, but could easily deduce if they dared think about it. Not referring to painful or embarrassing events from the past, for example, is certainly a gift. Yet when we give that gift we find that it is not appreciated as it should be. Hmm.
This comes up in a humorous way because I am reading PG Wodehouse,* where barons and financiers and vicars all have some past embarrassment they wish to keep secret, and are willing to give large sums of money to keep everything hush-hush. They are always fawningly grateful to the young man or woman who they believe knows the story but whose lips are sealed. Because it is fiction, that's the way it works. In reality, the favor is either forgotten or eventually resented. Odd, that.
Parents know this, but also know it is the way of the world. What we give to children occurs largely before they are able to process and categorise, or perhaps even understand it. What we give them later, when they have minds of their own, is more ambiguous anyway. Spouses come to know it as well, for even in happy marriages we are likely to be grateful for easy and even untrue things, while quickly forgetting the great sacrifices the other has made for us.
I tread carefully here, because some of my children, plus others who know them, read this blog. But I notice this among them as well. The sons who have received favors from their brothers are the least grateful about it. They are more than a bit oblivious about how much others put up with. There's something like an emotional Dunning-Kruger Effect.
I wonder if it is true that ungrateful people receive more favors. That would be a kick in the teeth, wouldn't it? Those who love them keep giving, thinking, like Bullwinkle trying to pull another rabbit out of a hat "This time for sure!"
But it doesn't happen. The recipients go on, being insulting and irritable, certain in their righteousness.
One step deeper, and we get into sermon territory here. If this is true, then it is true of us before God as well. We are not even aware of what we should be ashamed of and confessing. It is in fact one of the quick tricks of pastoral counseling that if a person is obsessed about Sin A and is unable to get off confessing it and worrying about it, it's because there is another sin beneath the surface that they wish to avoid thinking about. It's easier to remain focused on Sin A and gin up great sorrow for it.
*It's pronounced "Woodhouse," BTW. I got that wrong for decades.