We all know we shouldn’t text as we drive. Or more precisely, we all know other people shouldn’t text as they drive. As for me, I’m exceptionally cautious, just sending off a few words to keep life moving. Plus, my texts aren’t a real problem since I’m an excellent driver.
It turns out that 93 percent of us in the United States believe we are above-average drivers—a conclusion that defies the very notion of what average means. Likewise, most of us perceive ourselves to be above average in intelligence, friendship, marriage, parenting, leadership, social skills, work ethic, and managing money. As a college professor, I might guess myself to be immune from this sort of normative overestimation, and that guess would be wrong. Almost 9 out of 10 college professors believe themselves to be above-average teachers.
We live in a Keilloresque Wobegon world where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” To admit being average at anything—or worse yet, to call someone else average—seems shocking these days. But while it may come as no surprise to Christians commanded to “be completely humble” (Eph. 4:2), it turns out that humility is really good for us. It just took the science a while to prove it.
Experiments of Virtue
For many decades psychologists have studied what goes wrong with people and how to help repair the damage. In contrast, positive psychology—the science of virtue—looks at what goes right with people and how to help them flourish and thrive. Many of today’s leading scholars in positive psychology are Christians studying topics such as forgiveness, gratitude, hope, wisdom, grace, ...1