by Rev Sng Chong Hui
A few years ago, researchers in Taiwan recruited volunteers for a health related study.
Half of the volunteers were told they were taking multivitamin supplement while the other half was told it was a placebo (which it was).
The results revealed two dramatically different behaviors.
Those who knew they were taking just a placebo kept up with their exercise regime and dietary discipline.
But those who thought they had taken a health supplement expressed less desire to exercise. They walked shorter routes. They have a feeling of invulnerability. They chose less healthy food. They engage in hedonic activities.
This study illustrates a phenomenon known as the “licensing effect.” It is the tendency for positive healthy choices to license subsequent unhealthy self-indulgent choices.
Beware of the licensing effect.
It seems that people who have been exercising regularly for the past weeks, are likely to give themselves the license to eat an extra large McDonald’s upsized meal with a liter of Coke. They celebrate their achievement by gorging on junk food.
They appear to have an illusion of invulnerability created by their rigorous fitness training, which leads them to pick choices that sabotage their goals.
Strange as it may sound, making progress towards our goals may often make us less motivated to work towards achieving them.
Studies show that students who work hard and feel good about the amount of time they have spent studying are more likely to drop their books and go out with their friends to chill out. They feel that since they had made so much progress, it gives them the license to drink with abandon, party wildly and go off the rails.
They rewarded themselves by giving themselves the license to license.
Just so people who consider donating huge sum to charity engage in shopping spree, buying expensive things that they would not thought of purchasing before.
That’s the licensing effect. The good done seems to give the license to lift the lid off the cravings suppressed inside.
It just made me wonder if the “licensing effect” was the cause of the downfall of many well-established pastors, charismatic preachers and popular TV evangelists.
Having worked so hard and accomplished far more than the best, they could have developed a feeling of invulnerability giving them the license to license.
I immediately think of King David when he reached the height of his career. He ushered in the golden era of Israel as the nation under his rule achieved prosperity and superiority over their neighbors.
And then the “licensing effect” set in.
“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem” (II Samuel 11:1).
The chapters before tell of David’s triumphal exploits as he led his troops against the enemies of Israel.
But as chapter 11 begins, David just sent his army to engage in the battle with the Ammonites. In fact, verse 1 ended with this rather strange and uncharacteristic behavior of the king: “But David remained in Jerusalem.”
Could it be that David developed a feeling of invulnerability, brought on by the rise of his military might and power?
Could it be that David rewarded himself for the success, progress and prosperity with the license to remain in Jerusalem?
Could it be that David gave himself the license to lust, lie, covet, commit adultery and murder?
I submit to you that David might well be yet another case of the “licensing effect” for he give himself the license to license.
And so the Bible warns:
“Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall“ (I Corinthians 10:11-12).
However hard you have worked, whatever the progress you made and no matter how successful you are, never reward yourself with the license to license.