Researchers from Northwestern and Harvard University conducted an interesting study recently that introduced the world to something called "Unethical Amnesia". Basically, they've discovered that when we do something immoral, a psychological mechanism kicks in that causes us to forget about it. Maryam Kouchaki and Francesca Gino, the lead researchers, pored over the data from the study of 2100 individuals and concluded that because even the smallest acts of dishonesty give us uncomfortable feelings of guilt and remorse, and because we value morality so highly, and because we desperately need to foster a positive self-image of ourselves, we somehow manage to blank out the bad stuff we've done in life so that we can continue to think of ourselves as good people.
Of course, when we talk about 'bad stuff', we're generally not talking about burglaries, muggings and murders. Most of us don't go in for that. We're talking about the little things: Taking stationery from the office, keeping extra change given to us by a supermarket cashier, telling a little white lie to avoid keeping an appointment. Apparently, millions of things like these are happening every day - 'common cheating' is its name - but Unethical Amnesia skews our opinion of ourselves, even as we carry them out. The researchers said:
"Many who consider themselves honest nevertheless cheat on taxes, steal from the workplace, illegally download music, have extramarital affairs, use public transportation without paying, lie and so on."
The Bible actually talks about this self-deception when it says, "Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness..." (Proverbs 20:6) and contrasts it with the truth when it says, "For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard." (Romans 3:23) Put simply, we are prone to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. We have all sinned, but we fool ourselves into believing we haven't, or at least not to any serious degree. Malcolm Muggeridge said it well:
"The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact."
To be a Christian then, is just to be honest. It's to be intellectually honest, morally honest and emotionally honest. It's to admit the truth that we've sinned - all of us - and to ask Jesus for forgiveness. If you haven't done that yet, I invite you to this morning.
Be honest. You need a Saviour.