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  • Reverend James Squire

What Would Jesus Do?

Photo by Gift Habeshaw


What would Jesus do? was often a phrase abbreviated to WWJD. It was particularly popular here in the United States in the late 1800(s) after a widely read book by Charles Sheldon entitled, In His Steps: What would Jesus Do. It regained popularity in the 90(s) when people could be seen wearing bracelets inscribed with WWJD. It has fallen by the wayside. I think that it should be brought back into our culture to help Christians and others make better informed choices.

The rubber bracelets with WWJD on them were obviously placed on people’s wrists as a reminder of how Jesus would make difficult decisions that folks had to make now. This phenomenon could have an important place in our culture as getting two things for the price of one. No one can turn down “a buy one, get one free” offer in the grocery store. The bracelet would (1) remind us of Jesus’ teachings or get familiar with them and (2) would help us to employ some important research done at the University of Michigan.

A new study has been published in the Clinical Psychological Science Journal on an effective strategy in making good choices and helping the person maintain a calm state of mind. We wouldn’t say to ourselves “I wonder what I should do?”. We would say “I wonder what Jim should do?” or “I wonder what you (meaning me) should do? The researchers, Celia Furman, Ethan Kross, and Ashley Gearhardt, have found “distanced self-talk” to be a successful strategy in making good choices even when it comes to choosing healthy food over junk food.

This confirms what many have been doing since the dawn of making choices. “I wonder what my dad would do with this problem?” “I wonder what my grandmother would do in this situation?” Raise the choice question in any of these ways and avoid ever saying, “I wonder what I should do?” A simple way to express how self-distancing works is when you do something wrong instead of saying to yourself, “Why did I do that?” say “Why did you do that?”

According to the researchers when you say “you”, it is more calming and results in better decisions. Angela Duckworth who is the author of the best seller Grit and Professor of Positive Psychology at Penn, is an advocate of this approach. Angela is a national leader in the science of psychology. I trust her advocacy of ideas. I attended a meeting with her and a dozen others at Penn on strategies for teaching grit to school students which resulted in a benefit to students who needed more resilience.

What has been as old as the origins of mankind has now been proven as the cutting-edge research in making good/ethical choices. Who would have thought?

There isn’t research on the benefits of WWJD, but I would like to suggest that question could be an even better way for those in the Christian community to make some of our choices. The question would be, regarding this hard choice that I have to make, “What would Jesus do?”. It is an ideal way to act on our faith. It removes our ego from the decision, through “distanced self- talk”. It also allows our belief in Jesus to guide the answer in the same way that we asked, “What would my grandmother do?”

I remembered an image from words I read by Robert Jastrow in his book, God and the Astronomers. In a statement that concludes the book he describes this relationship between science and religion best. “For the scientist the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

“Distanced self-talk”, the cutting edge scientific research on making good choices, and WWJD. Who would have thought?

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