Slow Down! Why Your Moral Reasoning May Depend on It

Craig Van Korlaar —  August 2, 2012

Time compression (the feeling that time is speeding up) has become a byproduct of our post-modern society. Demands for increased productivity and technology like smart phones and social networks encourage us to fill every minute with some form of activity, even when we are supposed to be resting.

I can certainly be guilty of this. In fact, I started writing this article at 2:00 am after being unable to fall back asleep. I figured I might as well do something productive. “Sigh.”

However, rest is not idleness.

This July, Perspectives on Psychological Science published new research by Mary Helen Immordio-Yang revealing how rest and reflection are not idleness. Instead, they are critical for learning from our experiences and appreciating their value for future choices. In other words, rest helps us to understand and manage ourselves in a social world.

Balance is needed between outward and inward attention.

Immordio-Yang describes it this way,

[Mindful reflection is] essential to our ability to make meaning of the world around us. Inward attention is an important contributor to the development of moral thinking and reasoning and is linked with overall socioemotional well-being.

Negative effects of skipping mindful reflection.

  • Decreased self awareness
  • Decreased ability to make sound moral judgements decreased ability to learn
  • Decreased memory
  • Decreased sociological and emotional functioning

Implications for today’s youth.

Younger generations are bombarded with an unprecedented amount of information. Much of it is harmful morally in its content. However, this study suggests that fast-paced, urban, digital environments could be systematically undermining people’s sense of moral reasoning and psychological development.

Consistently imposing high-attention demands on children through entertainment, school, extracurricular activites, and living conditions at home, may rob them of opportunities to advance from thinking about ‘what happened’ or ‘how to do this’ to constructing knowledge about ‘what this means for the world and for the way I live my life,’

Children and youth should be given the time and skills necessary for reflecting. Studies show that when this happens they often become more motivated, perform better on tests, are less anxious, and plan more effectively for the future.

Implications for adults.

We should make time for quite introspection and conscious reflection and encourage others to do the same.

Of course, this applies to our spiritual lives, too. Consuming a constant stream of Christian books, podcasts, blogs, and even Scripture isn’t healthy if you aren’t making time for introspective reflection and authentic quite time. In fact, according to this study, it could even affect your moral reasoning.

The concepts of rest, personal examination, and meditating on scripture are found throughout the Bible. Joshua 1:8 encourages us to meditate on Scripture day and night. And of course, the principle of Sabbath resting even made the top 10 commandments.

For Discussion:
How can you encourage yourself and those around you to take time to rest and reflect?

Craig Van Korlaar

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Craig is founder of TopNonprofits.com, a curation of best practices from the world's leading nonprofits. His skills were honed as a decorated sergeant and enlisted aerial navigator for the U.S. Marine Corps and nurtured through his work at public schools, the YMCA, and Food for the Hungry. Most recently, Craig has served as operations director at Phoenix's New City Church, co-founder of SoChurch communications software, and a key player in laying the groundwork for OpenChurch.com. Craig spent much of his formative years as a missionary's kid in Kenya and civil war-torn Zaire.

2 responses to Slow Down! Why Your Moral Reasoning May Depend on It

  1. I’m a life management coach and teach life management in the workplace and a faith-based version for churches. I get to encourage people daily! The snowball effects of mismanaged time, resources, and talents is astounding. It starts with one life area…and hits the other eight many times. The good news is if we are prioritized and focused properly, we can STOP it, regroup, and reclaim our lives!

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