I recently finished my class on psychology and needless to say I did alright. I was surprised to find the subject matter quite interesting. Of particular interest to me was Pavlov's theory o conditioning. He was a noted psychologist who used a dog to prove his theory. In his famous experiment he conditioned the dog to salivate at the sound of a bell, because there was a connection between the bell and being fed. What I found most interesting is that conditioning not only works positively, it works negatively.
All of this got me thinking of the very first words of the book of Psalms which we're currently studying. "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." (NAS) A couple of bulletins ago we talked about sin and now I want to tie it into this theory of conditioning. You see a man is first startled by sin; then it becomes pleasing, then easy, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then uncontrollable. Through the conditioning of sin a man becomes impenitent, then obstinate, then lost!
We use conditioning as a method to deal with various kinds of things that present difficulties. It could be a fear, or something related to a particular job that is unpleasant, or any number of things that a person might want to do, but finds difficult because of some unpleasantness or worse. For example, a medical student may find it almost impossible to make it through an autopsy without fainting. But, little by little, that same student can become conditioned to withstand the sight, sound and smell of all sorts of unpleasant things. A horse might shy at sudden sounds, but little by little, it can be conditioned to ignore the sounds and remain under control.
On the other hand it is entirely possible to become conditioned to accept sin and unholy things, through small bits of exposure to them. We don't see our thinking change, yet what might have offended us at one point may have become perfectly acceptable later, this transition happening because we were exposed to that sinful or unholy thing a little at a time. The movie, Gone With The Wind, created quite a stir when it first came out because right at the end, Clark Gable had a line with one curse word in it. It's the only curse word in the entire movie. Today, movies are filled with much worse words than the one used in that movie. Nobody seems to notice. Have we become conditioned?