Everyday Evil: Hurry

This is sort of a genius research study. In 1973, the From Jerusalem to Jericho study looked at the effect of being in a hurry on helping behaviours — specifically, on the behaviours of seminarians writing about the Good Samaritan story in the Bible.

You can read all about how they ran the study at Richard Beck’s site. Here are his observations on the primary study result, which was that “the single biggest factor in helping was hurry.” Only 10% of those not in a big hurry offered help, while 63% of those in no hurry did so.

Beck’s observations:

1. Again, virtue is contextual: “We are a different kind of person when we are hurried versus when we are unhurried. There is no ‘real’ you. There is, rather, hurried you and unhurried you. And, as your family, friends, and coworkers can attest, hurried you and unhurried you are really two very different people.”

2.  “Most of us pursue spirituality as a hobby. … [H]obbies and leisure activities are what we pursue when we have free, expendable time our our hands. But when we have ‘stuff to do,’ we tend to place our hobbies to the side. They are not allowed to interfere with our urgent agenda.”

3. “[H]urry is a form of everyday evil. Hurry turns us into self-interested, callous jerks. We need to be reminded that love involves slowness. Love has a speed, a pace. And that speed is slow.”

I’m sorry to say that it’s very unlikely that I would stop to help someone who seemed to be in gastrointestinal distress. I know because I had the chance and didn’t take it. I was in a bathroom in an upscale mall not too many years ago, in which was also a young woman, clearly in pain, writhing on the toilet, so undone that the door was open and she didn’t seem to care … and I came and went without offering any help. I wasn’t in a hurry at all … I think I was actually wandering around, ‘killing time.’

My thinking then — because I did think about it — was that it would be better not to intrude on her pain. I’ve noticed that’s frequently how I decide things, erring on the (perhaps extreme) side of ‘letting’ others make their own way if at all possible, if my acting would call attention to the other person’s neediness. Sometimes that’s probably the best action, and other times, it’s not. It’s how I generally prefer people to behave towards me; I like company, to be accompanied, and I like people to be willing to help if I ask, but I generally don’t like offers of advice, emotional or practical/physical support and help (other than the foresaid accompaniment — just being with me), solicitousness, fuss, and anything that feels like that. But if I were nearly unconscious on the street, or in agony in a public toilet, I might make an exception.

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