Tag Archives: Price

The Price of Knowing

July 30, 2018

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by Christopher Menzhuber

Sometimes car salesmen will use a tactic that goes like this: If the customer offers to buy a car at a certain low price, the salesman writes that price down on a piece of paper and asks the customer to sign their name next to it. Signing one’s name is the customer’s pledge to buy the car at that price so the salesman has motivation to talk to his manager to try and get that low price.

It can be a little disorienting because often customers just want to know if the dealership will sell a car for a certain price before having to decide if they want to actually make the purchase. This tactic requires a commitment from the customer in order to obtain that knowledge. It takes away the advantage a customer has of being free to walk out of the sale and it requires the customer to be confident in the price they offer. I recently encountered this technique and the experience brought to mind what I think are two important and related principles.

Firstly, there is a kind of knowledge that can only be obtained by investing something of ourselves in a kind of quid pro quo. For example, will joining this parish help me grow spiritually? Do I have what it takes to stay committed to this person in marriage? Will this person stay with me? What is it like join the Catholic Church and become “Catholic?” When we are presented with such overtly life-altering decisions, it’s only natural to want to know the outcome before it happens, especially if the decision involves some kind of personal risk.

But we only come into full knowledge by taking the leap of faith, entering into them with ourselves and accepting all of the risks and uncertainties that go along with it, trusting that God is a providential Father who loves us and wants what is best for us. These are not transactional in the same way as major consumer purchase, but they are relational; for all of the preparation that can be done leading up to the decision, after a certain point one cannot learn anything more from a position of detachment.

Secondly, the anxiety of being presented with a significant decision can be greatly diminished by the preparation we do. The effort spent striving after virtue during a courtship pays dividends later in marriage. Attending Mass and meeting with parishioners and staff can help prepare us for what to realistically expect at a given parish. The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) is designed to gradually lead people to a place of freedom where they can say with confidence “I believe in all the Catholic Church believes.” Above all prayer, works of charity, participation in Sunday Mass, and frequent confession give us the spiritual foundation to move forward in peace.

We are living in a time when there is an unprecedented amount of data available to us, much of which can be passively acquired safely behind a screen. We are called to be good stewards of this opportunity but to also remember that there are kinds of knowledge that can only be obtained by opening up ourselves in a generous exchange with the reality that is before us. Last February, Pope Francis summed it up well when he encouraged young people to “Open wide the doors of your life! May your time and space be filled with meaningful relationships, real people with whom to share your authentic and concrete experiences of daily life.”

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