Want to increase decisiveness or get rid of nagging “second thoughts”? Then wash your hands more often! As Science Magazine  reports, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when people washed their hands after a difficult decision, they moved on quicker, and felt much better about their decisions. If they did not visit the sink, they continued to worry and re-visit their decision.

This research builds on an earlier study that showed that the physical sense of purity is actually related to the moral sense of purity in the human mind. NPR asked Michigan researcher, Spike Lee, to explain both findings:

Psychologically what seems to be happening is that the physical experience of removing germs or dirt or contaminants on your hand is used to provide a basis for an abstract kind of experience, removing residues from your past immoral behaviors. So that’s in the case of morality.

Now, in the case of choice, it seems that when people are washing away things, physically washing away things off their hands, they’re also abstractly washing away mental residues from their past decisions. So I think that that is what’s going on, and that’s why it has the power of freeing people from concerns about past decisions.

So, was Pilate on to something after all? And were our mothers correct, that cleanliness is indeed next to godliness?

Well, as Lady Macbeth discovered here, and as Pilate discovered in the hereafter, no amount of hand-washing can fully or forever wash away our sins. Hand-washing may give some temporary psychological relief to painful consciences or indecisive minds. But we need more than that. As adulterous and murderous David came to realize, we need our hearts washed (Ps. 51:10). And only the blood of Christ can do that (1 John 1:7).