If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. ~ Albert Einstein (attrib)
Many years ago, I wrote a short story that could have been based off this quote. Mind you, it wasn’t, because I had never seen it until today, but it could have been. I have long since lost my copy of the story, but I want to share some of what I remember of it with you today.
The plot of my story involved a conversation taking place between a young person and God . God answers questions in a cadence that sounded suspiciously like George Burns (you can set the time frame of when this was written now!), and explains things with a reference to the child’s own life. One of my favorite portions is when they are talking about Heaven and God is explaining that it doesn’t quite work the way people seem to think it should. This is because people are too tied to the idea of rewards as payment. God makes a reference to how the child’s mother asks for her to babysit her baby brother and how she does it because she loves her mother and her brother and wants to help out. Mom is so appreciative, she gives the young girl a gift to thank her. Now, if mom does this every time, then the child will eventually come to expect payment of some type and will no longer be doing the favor for her family solely out of love and compassion, but her desire to help will be colored by the expectation of a reward.
My youthful perception of heaven went along similar lines. I think that people who behave a specific way because they want the reward of heaven or who avoid certain behaviors because they don’t want to go to hell, are all missing the boat. Whatever you think heaven is, or isn’t, I don’t think it is meant to be a currency to bribe people into behaving a certain way. However, I do think that this mindset is reflective of much that goes on in our society, even now. Think about it. This is how we teach our children for the most part. If the heaven and hell bribery pattern seems too grandiose an image, think of it as the carrot and the stick. It is really the same thing. We bribe good behavior with desirable prizes and we discourage bad behavior with some type of punishment.
In our heart of hearts, what we really want to do is to get people to do the right thing because it is the right thing, because they value the rightness of it. We want people to avoid destructive behaviors because they are harmful, not because they are afraid of getting caught. The problem is that we don’t know how to do that. We don’t know how to instill a moral sense outside of reward and punishment. Lacking the knowledge of any other way, we fall back on the reward and punishment system, because it has a demonstrated measure of success in controlling behavior.
This is one of the many reasons that I believe the coming shift is so huge. It is going to give us a new tool in shaping our awareness and perception of this world. That, in turn, is going to change what drives us to do the things we do. As we awaken to our multi-dimensional selves and come to grips with the reality of our being part of the Unity consciousness, we will be connecting and aligning ourselves with a guidance system that operates outside of the reward and punishment paradigm. Our behavior will change in accordance with that alignment and the level of concern we currently exhibit over rewards and punishments will fall away. That will no longer be what drives us. The world is about to become so much bigger!
NB: Image of carrot and stick falls under the Creative Commons license and is the work of Nevit Dilmen, some rights reserved. Use of image does not indicate endorsement of my blog or ideas.