A new study says they are. Professor Roger Steare has developed a “Moral DNA Test” to calculate changes in our value systems. Around 60,000 volunteers in 200 countries have taken the quiz. It measures responses to questions about morality, including judgments on whether those around us at work and home would consider us honest.
According to the study, females are more moral than men and are more likely to make decisions based on how they impact others. The study also states that our moral compass alters with age, becoming less obedient but more able to use reason. As a result, we reach a “peak of our intellectual and moral powers” in our early 60s.
When I read about the study this morning, I had to take the test myself. You can do the same at www.moraldna.org. Here’s the problem: the test turns out to be only as accurate as my self-descriptions. If I represent myself as being more honest or moral than I really am, the test will give me the profile I wish myself to be.
Years ago, John Powell wrote a perceptive book titled, Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am? His answer: because I’m afraid you won’t like me very much if I do. So I am tempted every day to project what psychologists call my “idealized self”–the person I wish I were. Then I try to become that person, or at least convince you that I am. Over time I may even try to convince myself that I am the person I wish I were. In that case, self-disclosing tests such as the Moral DNA will tell me what I want to hear.
Three problems result: One: our attempts to fool others are seldom successful. The mask inevitably slips and the game is up. Two: what impresses one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, so we’re forced to create a closet full of masks and choose one for every occasion. This constant role-playing becomes psychologically draining and eventually fails. Three: the only Judge whose opinion matters isn’t fooled by our deceptions, no matter how cleverly we execute them.
The Gospels tell us that “Jesus knew their thoughts” (Matthew 12:25; cf. Luke 5:22). David acknowledged to the Lord, “You perceive my thoughts from afar. . . . Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord” (Psalm 139:2, 4). He is watching you read these words and knows your mind better than you do.
What are we to do? C. S. Lewis suggests that we give up thinking about ourselves at all, focusing instead on our Father and our neighbor. If we do, we will feel “the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life.” When we abandon “the false self” with all its “posing and posturing,” this moment of freedom and relief “is like a drink of cold water to a man in the desert” (Mere Christianity).
How thirsty are you?