Knowing/Doing Gap Revisited
Frequently, I find myself with too much sermon material and not enough time to present it all. As one wise and experienced teacher of preachers said, “You have to cut some darlin’s,” meaning you don’t have time to share every helpful thought, illustration, or insight even if you think they are really good. So, kind of like cutting scenes from a movie, as the preaching producer/director, I have to cut some material that I really like.
There are two illustrations, however, that I ran across on the knowing/doing gap that I talked about last week that I didn’t use and I can’t quit thinking about, so I thought I would pass them along here.
The first is about the results of a study on heart by-pass surgery patients. Roughly 600,000 people have heart bypasses a year in America. These people are told after their bypasses that they must change their lifestyle. The heart bypass is a temporary fix. They must change their diet. They must quit smoking and drinking. They must exercise and reduce stress.
In essence, the doctors say, “Change or die.”
You would think that a near-death experience would forever grab the attention of the patients. You would think they would vote for change. You would think the argument for change is so compelling that the patients would make the appropriate lifestyle alterations. Sadly, that is not the case.
Ninety percent of the heart patients do not change. They return to their former lifestyle and habits. Study after study indicates that two years after heart surgery, the patients have not altered their behavior.
After reading that, I was struck again by the reality that if only to know was the key to changing our lives, what great shape we would all be in. And even when we know critical information that is extremely pertinent to our personal lives and well-being, we still don’t do anything different.
The second illustration came from a survey by the American Institute of Architects. 64 percent of architecture firms are reporting increased interest in outdoor living spaces: places for adults to relax and for kids to play. People say they want “a luxurious outdoor world” right in their backyard so they can escape their everyday lives, hang out as a family, and spend time outside while staying at home.
At least that’s what people say they want. But there’s just one problem: Evidence shows that for all of their good intentions, most families don’t actually spend time in their backyard retreats. A 2012 book titled Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century revealed the results of an in-depth study of middle-class Los Angeles families. Researchers from UCLA recorded hours of footage while carefully documenting how families actually spent their time.
According to their research, children averaged fewer than 40 minutes per week in their yards. Adults logged less than 15 minutes per week. All of these families benefitted from sunny Southern California weather. They had nice porch furniture, trampolines, even pools. They just didn’t use them.
But the researchers also noted a profound disconnect between belief and action: Most families told the researchers that they were using their backyards often, but the researchers’ observations proved otherwise.
One of the researchers noted, “Rather than use their outdoor retreats, people would retreat by turning on a [TV, computer, or video game] screen. People don’t like this image of their lives. So they don’t acknowledge it.” Instead, families “perpetuate the illusion” of spending time outside because that’s clearly the ideal.
Someone has made these helpful distinctions in our levels of convictions:
- There are things we say we believe because we want other people to think we believe them.
- Then there are things we think we sincerely believe but in reality our actions clearly don’t support that belief.
- And then there are things we actually believe because our behavior demonstrates that we do.
My hope is that we all are moving toward closing the “knowing/doing gap.” I pray that our Growth Spurt series is spurring us on toward the only kind of growing faith that matters: a faith that expresses itself through love. (see Galatians 5:6)
I look forward to taking a closer look at the next faith-growing catalyst this weekend: Private Disciplines. Yes, we are going to talk about the “D” word this weekend. We are going to learn that discipline makes a difference even when we have a bad attitude about it. So put on your grown-up pants and join us this weekend at one of our campuses as we learn to put into practice what we say we believe.