If no one was watching, would you break the law?

I’m not talking about murder, but other “crimes” like littering, running a stop sign or speeding. (Can I be penalized if I admit to doing any of these on this post?)

I’m thinking of this in a “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it does it make a sound?” kind of way.

I live near a four-way stop. I would guess that 95 percent of the time drivers do not come to a full stop. Some boldly sail through the intersection without even pretending to slow. There are other stop-signs scattered throughout the neighborhood that many ignore.

I don’t know why, but I would never, ever litter.

Littering has become a huge problem in China. According to an article I was reading, people are in the habit of throwing trash out their car windows and simply dropping trash on the ground as they walk. People are quoted as saying that everyone does it, so why shouldn’t I? The pictures of the trash are disturbing.

In an effort to battle this littering, a Hong Kong- based environmental group teamed with a well-known advertising agency. They collected litter, extracted DNA samples, and constructed renderings of the faces of those who littered. The renderings were posted around Hong Kong. Although these weren’t exact photographs of the litter tossers, I’m guessing they were close enough that the guilty (and those who know them)  might recognize themselves.

These leads me to another thought about doing what’s right only because I’m shamed into it.

Brene Brown writes that she found herself picking up her dog’s poop because she wanted those watching to think she’s a good person. I’ve found myself doing the same. But what if I looked around, and no one was watching? Would I leave the poop? Believe it or not, it’s possible to be fined for not picking up the poop.

Okay, maybe I’m not approaching this in a deeply theological way. But, now that I’m asking myself these questions, I realize that what I’m really wondering is – am I an intrinsically honest and law-abiding person or am I someone who merely wants to avoid a public shaming? (and possibly a ticket)

What about you?