"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hurry Up!

If there has been a catch-word lately, it has been this one: hurry. Or more specifically: hurriedness. It appears everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere else from the place they are at the moment. I really see it most often with my piano students. It seems each one is leaving their lesson, “hurrying” on to the next thing. And let’s don’t put all the guilt on the children. We adults are just as guilty. Even our pastor preached on it a couple of weeks ago.

So I wasn’t surprised when I came across a passage in Mark Batterson’s book, Wild Goose Chase, which spoke directly to the issue of hurriedness. And if I may, I’d like to relay a portion of chapter 3 to you entitled “Dictatorship of the Ordinary.” (Appropriate title to go along with this blog, don’t you think?)

Batterson tells of an experiment carried out by two Princeton University psychologists based on Luke 10:25-37, the story of the good Samaritan. As you may know, it’s the story of a man attacked and left for dead on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho, and who is bypassed by both a priest and a Levite, religious figures of the day, before a “despised” Samaritan stops and helps.

The author writes: “John Darley and Daniel Batson decided to replicate the story of the good Samaritan with seminary students. A few variables were introduced. The seminarians were interviewed and asked why they wanted to go into ministry. There were a variety of responses, but the vast majority said they went into ministry to help people. Then they were asked to prepare a short sermon – half of them on the story of the good Samaritan and the other half on other topics. Finally they were told to go over to a building on campus to present their sermons.”

I bet you can almost guess what happened next.

“Along the way, the researchers had strategically positioned an actor in an alley to play the part of the man who was mugged in the Jesus’ story. He was slumped over and groaning loud enough for passersby to hear.

“The researchers hypothesized that those who said they went into ministry to help people and those who had just prepared the sermon on the good Samaritan would be the most likely to stop and help. But that wasn’t the case. And the reason is the final variable introduced by the researchers. Just before the seminarians left to give their sermon, the researcher looked at his watch and said one of two things. To some seminarians, the researcher said, ‘You’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. You better hurry.’ To the others, the researcher said, ‘You’re early. They aren’t expecting you for a few minutes, but why don’t you start heading over there?’”

Interested in the results?

“Only 10 percent of the seminary students who were in a hurry stopped to help, while 63 percent of those who weren’t in a hurry stopped to help. In several cases, a seminary student going to give his talk on the parable of the good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim as he hurried on his way!

“Darley and Batson concluded that it didn’t matter whether someone wanted to help people or whether someone had just read and was preparing to preach on the parable of the good Samaritan. The only thing that mattered was whether or not they were in a hurry. They concluded, ‘The words, “You’re late,” had the effect of making someone who was ordinarily compassionate into someone who was indifferent to suffering.’”

Wow. Been in a hurry lately? If so, it just might be a good time to take a compassion check.

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