I’m always in a hurry – always set on beating time. I don’t know why. But this morning, as I read The Parable of the Good Samaritan I began wondering what kind of neighbor I am. I wonder how many people in need I have passed by.
One classic study1 found that when people are in a hurry, they are less likely to stop to help people in need.
In the ‘70s, Princeton social psychologists John Darley and Daniel Batson recruited Princeton seminary students to participate in their study on “religious education.”
For the first part of the experiment, each seminary student was asked to complete various demographic questionnaires. Once completed, each participant was told that he needed to walk to another building on the other side of campus to complete the second task of the experiment — which was to give a sermon on the Good Samaritan story. Half of the participants were told that the study was behind schedule and that they needed to hurry across campus as quickly as possible to give their Good Samaritan sermon to the waiting audience. The other half of the participants weren’t told anything about being behind schedule or the need to hurry across campus.
En route to the other side of campus, each participant walked by a man slumped in an alleyway. The man, who had been planted there by the researchers, moaned and coughed twice when each participant walked by. The researchers measured how many participants stopped to be a good Samaritan as they walked across campus to give a Good Samaritan sermon.
Darley and Batson found that 63% of the participants who were not in a hurry stopped to help the man. However,only 10% of the participants who were in a hurry stopped to help the man — even though they were on their way to give a sermon about helping people!2
In our times of hurrying, if we pause just for a moment we might be surprised at the available opportunities to be a good neighbor. May God help us!
1. Darley, J. M., and Batson, C.D. (1973). “From Jerusalem to Jericho”: A study of situational and dispositional variables in helping behavior”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 100-108.
2. Cleveland, C., Blinded by Busyness (2013)