Live Science staff writer Jeanna Bryner tells us
Morally upstanding people are the do-gooders of society, right? Actually, a new study finds that a sense of moral superiority can lead to unethical acts, such as cheating. In fact, some of the best do-gooders can become the worst cheats.It certainly does. This is but one more example of psychology rediscovering old truths. Bryner, doesn’t refer to it, but her article reminds us of Mt. 6:4-6
Stop us if this sounds familiar.
So that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.and of Luke 11:37-54.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Bryner suggests why people become hypocrites:
Past research has suggested that people who describe themselves with words such as honest and generous are also more likely to engage in volunteer work and other socially responsible acts.
But often in life, the line between right and wrong becomes blurry, particularly when it comes to cheating on a test or in the workplace. For example, somebody could rationalize cheating on a test as a way of achieving their dream of becoming a doctor and helping people.
In the new study, detailed in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers find that when this line between right and wrong is ambiguous among people who think of themselves as having high moral standards, the do-gooders can become the worst of cheaters.
People who are striving to be good can easily fool themselves and overlook or rationalize character defects and shortcomings. As my teacher, Msgr. Chester Michael has suggested in his meditation on Jesus’ temptations in the desert (Luke 4:1-13), good people can fall prey to one of the "three P's" (Pleasure, Possessions, and Power). As we enter Advent, it is time to pause, consider which of the three is tugging on us, and resolve to practice one of the three remedies (fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.) Go here for a chart on how these are related.
Advent is a time of waiting for the One who can deliver us. As we practice, let us remember with gratitude that none of these temptations need have any dominion over us.