No one wants to do the Wrong Thing. Right?
Doesn’t it feel good to be accepted? To be one of the “in crowd” or the “cool kids”? While most of my life was spent on the outside looking in, there were times when others were envious of my life and my friends. During ninth grade, a nineteen-year-old friend would pick me up from junior high school in his convertible. The look of envy in the eyes of the kids in my school made me feel superior as they watched me and a car full of older kids take off for another night of partying.
As the year went on, my classmates’ envy turned into jealousy, leading most everyone in school to shun me. Regretting my arrogance and realizing how it was my pride that created my isolation helped me to understand the scripture that tells us that a haughty spirit is usually the first sign of an impending fall.
It is the fear of isolation and a need to feel accepted that drives our craving to be part of a group. Groups provide more than camaraderie. They bring members protection and encouragement, all the while making us proud to be part of something bigger than ourselves. It is the pride of the group and our fear of rejection that leads us to stand up for the group, even when we disagree with the direction it may be going. The fear of isolation or being disliked is a powerful force; a force that is hard to overcome.
So many times, it was my fear of being pushed out of a group for standing up for my beliefs that led to my silence. Or worse, participation in group thinking and hatred leading me to an undesirable action. All the while, working to protect the group from others while worrying about the group’s perception of me.
My experiences during school taught me there are two separate forces of relationships at work in our lives. Personal, individual relationships and those that come with a group of like-minded people. Christ taught us to “Love One Another” as individuals, not as a group.
Many times, we put the desires of the group above what we know to be the right thing to do as an individual. In a sense, we place our group on a pedestal; reveling in the power that comes in numbers. In my experience, this is a form of idol worship. Often my desire to please the group would lead me away from doing the right thing, taking me down the wrong path and driving me away from God.
When confronted with that gut-wrenching decision to do “the right thing” or the wrong thing. All the while trying to rationalize that the wrong thing was the more expedient thing. It was when resisting temptation and standing my ground, not giving in to the group, some of the best things in my life happened. We’ve all been there. Angel whispering in one ear, devil in the other. Don’t you truly always know the right thing to do? It seemed all my anxiety came from me trying to justify doing what was wrong (the bad decision), while every “good decision” washed me with calm and peace.
Developing the habit of praying every time these situations would arise made it easier for me to stand up to a group mindset. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Like exercise, when you develop the habit of doing the right thing, turning to God instead of temptation, you get stronger and the task becomes easier. The content of our character is built over time, like building muscles through exercise with unrelenting discipline and perseverance.