“Thank God!” (I Can’t Do Whatever I Want)
Mar 31, 2014
Psychologist and Swarthmore College professor Barry Schwartz was on NPR yesterday, talking about his TED Talk, "Are We Happier When We Have More Options?” and his 2004 book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. His main idea: unlimited choice, even between good choices, does not make us happier. Having too many options inflates our expectations and can overwhelm our ability to decide. Life is better when we have limits.
Psalm 19 is in full agreement - maybe better said, Prof. Schwartz is echoing (knowingly or unknowingly) the wisdom of the Psalms:
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes.... (Psalm 19:7-8, ESV)
In other words, if you want a joyful heart and a healthy soul, God’s limits, God’s boundaries, are the very things we need the most. The word “precept” carries the idea of “regulating.” God’s limits on our behavior keep us running right, living right, and much, much happier than the false promise of “doing whatever you want."