What we say says a lot about who we are. Not just in conversation, but in written word as well.
Take this recent study where, using the 5.2 million Google Books archive, researchers studied, “the appearance and frequency of words ‘related to moral excellence and virtue’ in American books from 1901 to 2000.” What they did was study the frequency these books contained words related to moral character. Words like honesty, patience, honor, kindness, sincerity, courage, generosity, mercy, wisdom, humility.
“If the books are to be believed, we may be in a moral decline.”
I think the word “may” is misleading. I would say there’s no doubt. Nevertheless, the research showed these words to have a negative correlation with time, meaning their use declined as time went on. 74% of the words designated to denote moral characteristics significantly declined during one particular study.
What does this mean?
According to the same article,
“Analyzing these words as used in books is a way to highlight a culture’s consciousness, they [the researchers] told The Atlantic Wire: ‘The words in a book reflect what is salient in the minds of a culture’s members, and simultaneously make these words even more salient. It’s a feedback cycle whereby people make cultural products and the cultural products make people,’ they wrote by email.”
Basically, they’re saying the analysis of word frequencies in books lets us peer into the hearts and minds of the society that wrote them. Or,
“Simply, fewer virtue words in books means that the concepts those words stand for are less a part of the individual and societal consciousness.”
It would seem we’re “morally unconscious.” The article goes on to say these virtuous words have most likely been replaced by egocentric, or individualistic words. Again, not surprising when you survey the cultural landscape.
Friends, this is why our society isn’t flourishing
This is why we aren’t realizing the Kingdom on earth. This is why our lives lack meaning and direction.
Morality isn’t something defined by each person, as the coming generations will say. Morality is truth espoused by the Word of God. Unless you believe in Truth, you can’t believe in morality. Otherwise, everything’s relative. It’s counter-cultural these days, but right and wrong do exist and they have a definition.
We can’t begin to flourish until we accept the morality recorded and handed down to us by revelation. Even the authors of the studies mentioned, who miss the immediacy and urgency of the problems they cite, understand the significance of morality in a well-functioning society.
“Virtues are vital to both individual and societal flourishing…’a virtue-salient culture would provide a more fertile ground for individual and societal flourishing than one where concepts of moral excellence are at the fringes of public conversation.’”
When morality is relegated to the fringes, we will no doubt witness a decline in our quality of life. Our intelligence was never meant to be separated from our spirit. They’re meant to be intertwined, woven into a beautiful tapestry of wisdom and discernment.
Our intelligence is designed to include morality. Once divorced, intelligence becomes like a small child left unattended, leaving a wake of mess and disaster behind. This is why when you have biblical wisdom, you can easily see whether someone’s knowledge is worldly or godly.
But it doesn’t have to be this way
In fact, it was never meant to be this way.
If we embrace morality back into every corner of our lives, we will see the birth of something that thrives, something that brings life. We will witness the flourishing of a society instead of the downwards spiral we’ve been a part of the past 50 years.
The choice is mine and yours. We can bury our heads in Truth, or we can bury them in the sand. We can choose to embrace the morality defined for us by God himself, or we can continue to let the chasm between our beliefs and actions widen.
But make no mistake, whether or not we flourish together or die alone will be decided by not only those who are in power, but by the people who are reading this today. Morality can’t be embraced by society as a whole until it’s embraced in the lives of the people.
Are you helping society flourish? Are you turning a blind eye to immorality somewhere in your life?