Studying human behaviour and faith don’t have to conflict.

“Throughout this book, I have described experiments that I hoped would be surprising and illuminating. If they were, it was largely because they refuted the common assumption that we are all fundamentally rational…In fact, these examples show that we are not noble in reason, not infinite in faculty, and rather weak in apprehension.”

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in human behaviour. I’m a fan of self analysis, love deep discussions with people and have always been somewhat observant of behaviour patterns, especially to avoid personal failure, rejection or pain. Even in my work as a career strategist: how many of us approach our careers and work is often an indication of a much deeper motivation.

Over the last few months, I’ve maintained more strongly that studying human behaviour is beneficial and gives us far more insight into human nature, and more specifically for this post, the nature of sin. By sin I mean it’s original meaning, that is not religious in origin: to fail or to miss the goal. The Bible Project’s word study video on sin has been helpful in my understanding.

First, it is impossible to meet God’s* standards. Second, it is impossible for us to inoculate ourselves against the failure of meeting our own or societies standards. Believe me, I have tried to do both. I grew up in an achievement based environment. If you didn’t achieve, you got left behind.

In the book, Predictably Irrational, Ariely examines human rationality and decision making (behavioural economics) through the experiments he and his colleagues conducted. The quote above is one of the conclusions he makes close to the end of the book.

Let me preface with, I have no intention of  “christianizing” Dan Ariely’s words. 

Here’s what I will say. In reading this book (and others) along with my own personal observations, studying human behaviour and faith do not have to conflict. I’ve found it has given me a greater understanding of my own sin and the sins of others. It has made me far more compassionate and humble. It’s been a tool in identifying my own and others (potential) blind spots. It’s also confirmed the idea that we all have deep-seated issues and motivations (across the spectrum) that would be foolish to ignore or downplay. 

By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed this read and recently bought the book. I usually borrow a book from my local library first (if it’s available) then buy it later if I think it’s a keeper.

*When I say God, I mean Yahweh, mentioned in Genesis 1 and Exodus 3:14 and the Son mentioned in John 1 and Hebrews 1 of the Bible.

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