Friday, May 13, 2005

Motivating Factors

Personal [Micro] economics is quite simple in theory. In theory, every decision we make has a cost and a benefit. We make decisions about spending our money by first evaluating whether a product or service is worth what it will cost us in terms of reducing our savings. If the product or service is worth more to us than the money, we will decide to buy. If our money is worth more than the product or service, we will decide to save. It’s all quite simple; that is until we start to calculate our motivating factor into our decisions.

Why do some parents cut coupons and wear old clothes in order to send their only child to Stanford? Why do some families drive up to a church, that is barely able to pay it’s bills, in a brand new $50,000 car? Why do some politicians send their children to a private school while at the same time singing the praises of public education? Why do most of us spend hours and hours shopping for a $30 pair of pants, but don’t think twice about the $10 we spend for popcorn and soda at the movies? Is it because we are all natural born hypocrites, or is it because we have different motivating factors for our different decisions?

The politician who sends his children to private school while advocating public education is motivated to provide the best education for his own children while at the same time he is also motivated to get elected. The politician may be behaving inconsistently, or may even be behaving hypocritically, but both decisions are rational based on the primary motivating factor for each separate decision. Likewise, the parents who sacrifice day in and day out in order to send their child to Stanford are motivated to provide the best possible education for their child.

Sometimes, the motivating factor of others is obvious. However, often times it is not. Everyone has experiences, desires, instincts, and emotions that complicate all of their decisions. If we assume that others are hypocrites when they behave inconsistently, or when they make a decision that is the polar opposite of the decision someone good like us would make, we really are expecting too much.

Perhaps, our goal should be to aim for consistency in our own life and our own decisions, while allowing for a little inconsistency in others, and also showing a little grace when others appear to be hypocrites. Maybe, we should also go a little easier on ourselves and enjoy some of the freedom God gave us.


Hammertime said...

I owuld go a step further, David. I would challenge us to recognize what hypocrisy is, and is not.


To say "all comments are welcome" but to kill posts.

To call people miserable failures for not obeying the rules you proscribe, but not attempt to obey them yourself.

Not Hypocrisy:

To say "prostitution is bad" but have a gambling problem.

To call all people sinners and encourage them to strive for a Christ-like life, while recognizing your own sinfulness and equal inability to meet the standard of perfection...but still striving to meet it.

Jesus, John the Baptist and the great men of the church called a spade a spade - so should we. That doesn't mean we never sin, it just means we know what we should do, and are trying, in Him, to do it...and are thankful He loves us when we don't.

Buz said...

Mr. Time,

I think it goes deeper than that. Is telling your children not to smoke, while you are dragging on a cigarette, hypocrisy? How about telling your kids not to do drugs with a can of beer in your hand?


Sorry, dude, but I grew up in the sixties. I remember all the kicking and screaming about "all adults are hypocrits". Some of it was true anger at the "condemnation of MY sin while ignoring YOUR sin", but a whole lot more was "I don't want anyone to tell me what to do, so when you try, I'll just label you a hypocrit and ignore you." I think Isaiah called that "turning to our own way" (53:6). I have developed a gut reaction that when anyone starts talking about hypocrisy, I prepare for the other shoe to drop ... the one that says "I want to do X and you have no right to stop me."

Basically a hypocrit is a liar. One difference is that a hypocrit may not know he is lying. We often delude ourselves into believing that we are better than we are. We judge others by their actions ... we judge ourselves by our intentions. And, by our intentions, we are not hypocrits.

I guess that I wonder where all of this soul searching on hypocrisy on your part is coming from.


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

Two things got me started thinking more about hypocrisy. I started noticing that almost everywhere, MSM, talk radio, and the internet, the major theme of most pieces is to point out the hypocrisy of others and then when Debra deleted my post, my first reaction was to label her as a hypocrite. I knew I needed to take a step back and evaluate what I was feeling. I came to the conclusion that my feelings were childish.

I think you and Hammer have it right. There is hypocrisy and there are hypocrites, but true hypocrisy is not so easy to identify or even define. I wouldn’t even label a father who smokes or drinks but cautions his children about smoking or drinking as a hypocrite. I think it’s admirable for a father to want his children to be better than he is. Of course in reality, the children are much more likely to mimic the behavior of the father, not his words.

Buz said...


OK ... I was just wondering. I think hypocrisy has evolved into the boogeyman. It has grown into the most reviled tresspass that we can imagine, except for child abuse. I agree that hypocrisy is not something to desire, but I think that there are a lot of behaviors far worse. I also think that a hypocrit, like a liar, hurts himself more than he hurts those around him.