Thursday, March 31, 2011

Virtue by Osmosis?

Thursday March 31, 2011

In strict contrast to Monday’s blog, there are acts of stunning kindness around the world. You may recall in October 2006 a 32-year-old milk truck driver barricaded himself in an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania and shot 10 young girls execution style. Yet within days, grieving parents reached out to the widow of the killer, offering forgiveness and financial assistance.

A new study from University of British Columbia finds that just reading about extreme acts of “human goodness” can make people more virtuous, and more willing to help strangers. You can read the story at

I’m not disputing that their conclusion may be true, even though the experiment seems a little contrived. In fact, the “Act of Random Kindness” movement is based on the premise that virtuous acts tend to be repeated by the recipients. If this is so, our compassionate actions should have a cascading effect throughout our community, beyond the initial kindness.

However, the producers of violence on film and television constantly try to assure us their product doesn’t have the same effect on viewers, even the impressionable. The same goes for unethical and indecent behaviour, particularly when shown as acceptable or justified.

If it is really true that what we expose ourselves to affects our behaviour, is it a clue where destructive behaviour comes from, both in our communities and worldwide? Perhaps it is a hint why the sins of the father will be visited on succeeding generations. The children will be punished for their own sins because they simply copy dad’s example. See Ezekiel 18.

I leave you to consider the implication for all of us.

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