Or Overcoming the Fading Effect

The article title really grabbed my attention “Afternoons turn us into lying, cheating, lazy jerks.” It was an article on MSN.COM by Melissa Dahl, NBC News (10/31/2013). She wrote,

Mornings are optimistic. The day is new, untouched. No one’s ruined anything yet. You head out the door, hopeful about what this day will bring, and what you’ll accomplish. And then morning fades into afternoon. Nothing has gone the way you planned it. You get snappy, grumpy…

Mornings really are when we’re our most virtuous―and by the afternoon, exhausted by our earlier attempts at being angelic, we’re more likely to lie, cheat, or indulge in lazy behavior, new psychology research suggests.

“From the moment people wake up in the morning, daily life requires the exertion of self-control,” write the study authors, Maryan Kouchaki and Isaac Smith of Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. “In deciding what to eat for breakfast, where to go and why, or even what to say and to whom, people regulate and control their desires and impulses. Normal, unremarkable experiences associated with everyday living can deplete one’s capacity to resist moral temptations,” they write. “In other words, people are more likely to act ethically and to overcome temptation in the morning than later in the day.” This new study, published this week in the journal Psychological Science, builds onto research that has suggested self-control is a finite resource. And by the afternoon, we’ve  run out of it, the authors suggest.

So the question is: are we helpless victims, doomed to the fading of moral resolve (and responsibility?) as the day fades from morning to evening? No, of course not. But I can see the wisdom of being aware of this tendency.

I have always preferred mornings and notice that I tend to feel more “blah” in the afternoon. But I had never thought about what I have personally called “the fading effect” having an impact in moral and ethical choices. I think of it more along the lines of energy and of realizing the limitations inherent in each day. It also helps me appreciate that God’s mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:22, 23)

In the end, it isn’t as much about our efforts as it is about our abiding in the Lord moment by moment. As someone has said, “It isn’t the time we put in, but what we put in the time.”

We are back into The Story. And even if you have faded a bit in your discipline, it’s not too late to pick up right where we are and move ahead.

See you in church! And keep reading The Story.