Punative Measures

This morning I saw a bumper sticker that took me aback. It read “Two choices – be kind to animals or burn in hell.” Talk about the worst way possible to go about advocating a position.

Don’t get me wrong – I agree that people who abuse animals are awful. At one point I was so disgusted by the maltreatment of animals on factory farms that I became a vegetarian for five years. My personal rule was if I could kill the animal with my own hands then I would eat it. Following this rule I ate fish but not chicken, meat or pork.

The problem is threatening people with damnation only works short-term if it works at all. People don’t respond well to threats. When people do something because they are afraid of the consequences they do so reluctantly and with the least amount of effort.

If you don’t believe me watch a minimum wage grocery store employee bagging groceries. Not a tremendous amount of zeal there. He’s not working because of the great career prospects. He’s doing it because if he doesn’t he’ll get fired.

A better approach to addressing animal treatment is to appeal to a person’s humanity. What’s wrong with the idea of people being kind to animals because it’s the right thing to do? Can’t someone be kind to animals because they genuinely love them? It feels good to feed, walk and care for my dog. I don’t need someone threatening me with eternal damnation. I do it because it’s good.

In a similar vein I don’t take care of my kids every day because I’m afraid DSS will take them away if I don’t. I take care of them because I love them. I love them to the point that I dream about jumping blindly into rivers to save them from drowning. In these dreams, I have the strength, intensity and power of the sun.

Love is energizing, it makes us move with power and force. Threats of punishment make us resentful and reluctant. Think about that the next time you are looking to motivate someone, bumper sticker guy.