Belief and behavior

In any dining establishment, a “regular” is someone who does not have to verbalize his or her order.

“Your usual, hon’?”

“Yes, please.”

That’s all of the communication needed.

Roland, a Presbyterian layman and early-bird regular at my favorite coffee shop, stopped by my round-top table recently after picking up his “usual” cinnamon-crunch bagel and coffee.

“How much ethics have you studied?” he asked with unusual seriousness.

“More than I’ve used,” was my response.

He smiled and replied. “That’s true of all of us, I guess.”

Instead of dealing with whatever topic had led to his question, we chatted for awhile about the overall difficulty in matching what we claim to believe with how we actually live.

In my old campus ministry days, I would ask students to list in order the top five priorities/values in their lives.

“God, family, friends, church, etc.” flowed out readily onto paper.

Then I asked them to chart out how they had spent their time and money over the last 48 hours. These true indicators of priorities/values rarely met the stated ones.

It was revealing — and at times embarrassing — to see the results. Like when more time and money was spent on Pac-Man than anything on the so-called priority list.

But the failure to match behavior with stated belief does not rest with the few. It is the challenge for all of us.


  1. If it was pac man you are older than you look and act

  2. Yep. An old guy like you.

  3. Very true observations that hit home, John. It reminds me of a quote from religion scholar Russ McCutcheon:

    “The study of religion is for those who think it curious that a highly religious auto mechanic will first wiggle the wires and check the spark plugs before praying over the car.”

    Curious beings we are indeed…there is such a huge gap between what we say we believe (or trust) and what our actions show. Many Protestants would call God the “Great Physician,” but we all go to see and trust a human physician and those who refuse to are considered crazy or insane. I think this raises serious questions about religious belief in general and goes beyond normal human shortcomings or sinfulness.

    Have you read about the “Theory of Planned Behavior” in psychology? It offers interesting insights on this topic.

  4. Maybe, we should be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath, so that our walk with match our talk!!!

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