One of the experiments they showed involved two teams of people trying to lose weight. While neither team got preferential information, that is where the similarities stopped. The general approaches to weight loss for each team were significantly different. The first team, about a dozen people who worked together at a tea company, was given all manner of positive reinforcement. They had pep rallies, motivational speakers and floods of hope and encouragement from each other and supervisors.
The other team had a completely different experience. These people all worked together for a minor league baseball team. They, too, were hoping to lose weight. They also were given no specific instruction on how to lose weight. A key difference, however, was in how they were motivated. The members of this team were photographed in very skimpy bathing suits (tiny bikinis for the girls and Speedos for the guys) and if they did not lose 15 pounds (the same target loss of both teams) the swimsuit photos would be shown on the jumbo screen at the ballpark for the team they worked for as well as on national TV on Primetime.
It was amazing to watch the footage of how the teams took on the challenge. One team approached the task at hand with an attitude of joy and hope in what they could do with the understanding of how this would make their lives better. While the other team might have an inkling of how their lives might be affected in the same way, this was not their motivation. Their motivation was blatant fear.
Now, you’re way ahead of me on this one aren’t you?
Still, I could not help but think about the parallel this human behavior game runs with our faith walk. Obviously there are some people who are motivated by fear, but there are also those who adopt a new way of living because it is merely a response to the understanding that the way of Christ is a better way; a way to which we are called because we want to live in communion with Him because of our belief in His way and because we love him. Honestly, I started out not unlike many probably do. My response to God was one borne out of the fear of His punishment and liberally coated with several layers of guilt. It has been much later that I have found a deeper understanding of what God wants from us. He wants us to want Him not just cower before Him. He wants us to experience His love daily rather than miss it while we are distracted by our focus on our own shortcomings.
Perhaps it is an engrained tendency within me, but I truly thought that the people faced with the possibility of being exposed before thousands in person and millions on television would be sufficiently motivated to reach their goals. However, while many of them were successful, the group working in the environment of positive thinking had a greater success rate. Is there a direct correlation? Of course not. On the other hand, perhaps the commentary on human behavior that came out of this may not need to be stretched much to apply to our faith. Fear as a sole motivation may be very effective in a sprint, but if our faith walk is to be lasting, strong and successful, I believe the positive force of love is stronger than that of fear.