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Goals and the Lesson of the Good Samaritan

There's an interesting story in the Bible often referred to as "The Good Samaritan." (Luke 10:29-37) It goes something like this.

A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him. They stripped, beat him and left him half dead.

A priest was walking by, and when he saw the man, the priest crossed over to the opposite side of the road. Then a Levite walked by, and he too passed by on the other side.

Finally, a Samaritan came upon the beaten man. The Samaritan stopped and tended to his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He then placed the poor man on his beast, brought him to an inn and gave the innkeeper money to take care of him.

Jesus offered this as an example of how we should act and ended the lesson by saying, "Go and do likewise."

This story shows how important our actions are.

Fast forward to the campus of Princeton University in 1973. Darley and Batson were conducting research on Theological Seminary students. The students were given the parable of the "Good Samaritan" to read and then told they had to give a talk on the parable, but in a different building.

The theology students were divided into three sub-groups: one was "high-hurry," and they were told to hurry to the second building to complete the assignment; one was "intermediate hurry," and they were told to go directly to the second building; the third group was "low hurry," and they were told they had plenty of time to get to the second building.

A suffering victim (in reality, a confederate in the experiment) was then positioned along the way to the second building.

The purpose of the experiment was to see how many theology students would stop to aid the "victim" after just having read the lesson of the "Good Samaritan."

What happened next was shocking. 60% of the theology students didn't stop to offer any aid.

The theology students who were in the greatest rush, the "high hurry" group, were the least likely to stop. They were in such a hurry to accomplish their goal (getting to the building to talk about the "Good Samaritan") that they forgot the lesson, to reach out and help people in need!

You're probably wondering what this has to do with working out.

Every day I see people so focused on a particular goal that they become blinded to the consequences of reaching that goal.

I have a friend who worked out for an hour a day, six days a week. At that rate, he was on track to reach his goal in nine months. But that wasn't fast enough. He decided that if working out for an hour a day was good, then two hours a day must be better, and he could reach his goal in half the time.

He was working out so much; his body had no chance to rest and repair itself. His muscle tissue was tearing down faster than it could rebuild, and he started to become weaker!

The solution was simple. I showed him that goals are important, but we must not let those goals over-ride rational judgment. He was so fixated on something that he became like those theology students, ignoring a victim (his well being) while rushing to become physically fit.

Every day you need to make sensible choices about diet and exercise. Make sure your goals aren't pushing you to make choices that are physically or emotionally damaging.

Take things a little slower. Don't worry, what you can't do today will be waiting for you tomorrow. Don't obsess. Fitness comes over time, not overnight.

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Updated 1/27/2021