Friday, October 09, 2020

Where Your Treasure Goes - Obverse

 Matthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Even those of us who know the verse still respond as if only the inverse were true, that we give our treasure to where our heart inclines.  That latter is certainly true, but Jesus is teaching the interesting principle that if we give something, or commit something, our heart is much more likely to follow.  This is why salespeople or charities or organisations try to get you to commit any small thing - even a smile or a nod can be a down payment. 

Churches want to make sure that all is grace and no one is left out for inability to pay - but teachers of adult Sunday School notice that people are more likely to do the homework and participate if they have paid for the book than if you give it for free.  We grow more attached to something if we have bought it rather than received it. There are all sorts of applications - if college students male and female are set across a table from each other and included in their chitchat, are required to confess one secret or slight embarrassment, the find they like each other and have a higher probability for going on a date after than if that requirement is left out.

I wonder about the obverse (I admit I may not be using that word properly here), that if we criticise something or participate in its criticism we are more likely to keep on disliking it. It is not that different from the original principle.  We have invested something of ourselves in the criticism, and our heart goes and stays there.  It would be a bit of a wrench to say "Oh, I was wrong about it, or her, or them." The cost is higher for some than others, but for all of us, we have put treasure in a place and our heart follows it.

I think there is something even stronger, though this is an impression.  I cannot think of any data, nor would I quite know what to look for, other than self-reports.  Once we have made fun of something, we are even more likely to keep on hating it.  It is very difficult to return from that. I did make fun of individual people when I was younger, not usually openly unless it was clearly with affection (and even that can go bad). For a longer period I made fun of groups - including some I now belong to. I don't think I do that much anymore - though there may be an entire sector of mockeries I still engage in, oblivious to any proper self-observation. As near as I can tell, criticisms are easier to repent of than mockings.  Not that those repentings are harder to accomplish once recognised, but that they are harder to see to begin with. When we have derived some emotional gain from expressing ourselves, that source of pleasure protects itself in our brain, heading off threats long before we become aware of them 

This would suggest that if we are habitual scoffers it begins to take over our character, and we become increasingly unable to give up our favorite targets. It has a CS Lewis feel to it, though I can't think of an example of it offhand. I suppose the section in The Great Divorce in which a woman is described who has grumbled so long that there is no longer any self grumbling, but merely a Grumble going on endlessly of its own accord is a bit like it.


Christopher B said...

This might provide an answer to your question.

james said...

Someone once said something like "If you want to hate a man, do him a bad turn."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Christopher B - yes, I have seen that research and it does fit. There are couples that yell at each other and get along for years, but contempt is a different matter.

@ James - or the Ben Franklin Effect, of getting people's cooperation by getting them to do you a favor, rather than doing one for them. I wrote about it in 2017

Donna B. said...

I'm not sure this fits here, but one way to make someone hate you is to loan him money.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That was painful. It explains a few things with relatives.