Thursday, June 02, 2005

personal trust accounts

I heard an interesting speech the other day by Joel Osteen, a Texas preacher. I'm not sure that I haven't heard the idea he spoke on from other places, but I can't remember where else. Anyway, I'll attribute it to him until I know better. People keep accounts of how they are treated by other people. If I pay you a complement, then I make a deposit into my account with you. If I sit and talk with you and you feel like I care about you, I add to my account. If I am harsh to you, then I am making a withdrawal. If I try to correct you, or even make a suggestion, I am making a withdrawal. As long as we make more deposits than withdrawals into our accounts, then our relationship is going to be fine. We will be willing to make allowances for little indescretions or outbursts from someone with a positive account. On the other hand, we will not take any nonsense from someone running a negative balance with us. I think Joel was trying to give people a new way of looking at being a giving person and being considerate of others. This is a worthy goal. But I worry about the consequences of taking this any farther than that. Even in the basic explanation it gets pretty childish: "They will be nice to me to the level I am nice to them. I will do something nice for them so I can get away with something later." Do we really keep track of people and their actions like this? Is this a way to look at International relations? Do the Palestinians keep a count of positive and negative things between themselves and the Israelis ( or at least what the Israelis do to them.) and vice versa? It certainly seems like it. To me it is interesting when a theory describes, or even predicts behavior. If you look at that theory, does it describe the way one would want their behavior to be described? Tit for tat? You be nice first, then I'll think about it. Now I'm depressed.

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