In this experiment by Darley and Batson, a group of seminary students were told that they had to walk across campus and deliver a lecture on the Good Samaritan story. The seminary students were divided into three groups, and one at a time, they were given instructions.
Those in the first group were given their instructions and then were told: “You’d better hurry up. You’ll be late for the presentation.”
The second group was told: “You’d better hurry. Your program starts in a few minutes.”
The third group was told: “Well, you might as well head on over to the auditorium. Your presentation doesn’t start for a while, but we are done here with the instructions.”
On the way over to the lecture hall, the students had to walk past a man lying on the ground (who was part of the experiment), sprawled out, obviously in pain and groaning. The students practically had to step over him to enter the hall.
Did these seminary students on their way to talk about the Good Samaritan story, stop to help a man in obvious pain?
It turns out that the results depended on the group the students were in. Only 10% of the first group asked the man if he needed help, but 63% of the third group stopped to ask if they could help.
Why did those in the first group step over the injured man, while those in the third group stopped to help? The researchers concluded it had something to do with being in a hurry and focusing on their presentation rather than the content of the Good Samaritan message. The “rushing and don’t be late” inner voice had activated a “me-centered” focus that overtook their best and more compassionate self.
Isn’t today’s lifestyle obsessed with being in a hurry? Most people are drowning in urgent emails, getting to the next meeting, or posting their most recent picture on social media. Modern life has become dominated by being in a hurry. It’s like we are all racehorses with blinders on either side of our eyes so we can’t look either way, trying to stay in our lane so we can run faster.
We identify with the scenario in this research and, while we like to think we would stop to check on the sick man, we also know we are guilty of being in a hurry a big part of the time. If we’re in a hurry, we sometimes forget our contemplative practices that support allowing our Creator essence to flourish. When we slow down, almost without fail, we increase our self-regulation practices by pausing and being more intentional about creating positive relationships with others.
Learning to transcend this hyper-rushing drama means we must learn to slow down. When we do, it is easier to remove the blinders, look around, and see others as Co-Creators who might benefit from our support and conversation.