A new survey has revealed that many Americans are apparently more worried about the state of their reputations than they are their consciences.
When LifeWay Research asked American respondents which feelings they avoid the most, 38 percent said “shame,” 31 percent said “guilt” and 30 percent said “fear.”
The findings led LifeWay Research executive director Scott McConnell to conclude that “our biggest cultural fear” is “shame,” noting that, in the social media era, an embarrassing mistake holds the potential to ruin — or at least negatively impact — someone’s life.
In the end, some fascinating differences were observed along religious lines, with the “nones” — individuals who are unaffiliated with faith — coming in as more likely than the religious (35 percent vs. 30 percent) to avoid guilt.
Meanwhile, 39 percent of the religious avoid shame verses 33 percent of the nones. Non-Christian religious individuals, though, are the most likely to avoid shame, with 48 percent attempting to do so.
Another intriguing finding is that respondents were most likely — 40 percent — to value personal freedom, with 31 percent saying the strongest value in their life is respect and 28 percent saying it is a desire to overcome.
But the proportions change once faith comes into the mix.
In fact, the “nones” are more likely than Christians to choose personal freedom (50 percent vs. 38 percent). This same dynamic unfolds when comparing evangelicals to those without evangelical beliefs (32 percent vs. 42 percent).
“What’s surprising is not that personal freedom, ambition, and doing the right thing are valued by Americans,” McConnell said of the findings. “It’s that risk to our reputation is what matters most.”
To assess where Americans stand on various values, LifeWay asked three key questions: “Which of these feelings do you seek to avoid the most?” “Which of these desires is strongest in your life?” and “Which of these directions do you value the most?”
“Guilt says, I deserve to be punished,” McConnell said, pondering whether shame is a bigger threat than guilt in the minds of many Americans. “But shame says, I am worthless.”
Read more about the results here.
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