Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Resisting Influence

In my two previous posts, I have first tried to differentiate the difference between “persuasion” and “influence” and then I have proposed that Christians should be reluctant to wield influence using techniques other than pure “persuasion” because all other methods involve manipulation and control which is sinful most of the time.

There is no doubt in my mind that way too often, believers, including myself, succumb to the sinful desire to manipulate and control others. As believers, we need to resist the temptation to manipulate others, and we also need to develop the judgment and discipline that is required to resist the manipulation of others. Sure, we have all heard and we all know we shouldn’t conform to the world, but I have never heard a clear definition anywhere of what it means to “not conform”. Most of us have houses, and cars, and clothes, and we play sports, and attend parties, and vacation, and recreate, just like all of the non-believers. I’m not sure we need all of our possessions or activities, but I would still maintain, “not conforming” has more to do with how we handle the influence of others than it has to do with what we possess or what we do for fun.

Most people, most of the time, are influenced by their own emotions and by the status of other people; not by truthfulness of an idea. I’m not claiming most people are dumb or that they don’t care about the truth, but I am claiming that most people balance the truth with their feelings about how they will be perceived by others, and often times the truth gets subjugated to the need to be perceived in a positive way by others. Madonna and Tom Cruise are influential because they have been able to reinvent themselves in a way that creates an image that is attractive and desired by a large part of the population. Leaders of political parties in the United States are influential because opponents within the party take a big risk of being alienated when they offer alternative ideas. Pastors, and Elders, and Deacons, and other leaders, in most Churches are influential for the same reason; opposition has consequences regardless of the validity of a new or different idea.

We can choose to go along in order to get along in society and in our churches, or we can choose to resist the influence of others. It’s not wrong to want to be like others when we are following the example of positive role models. It’s not wrong to have the same ideas as others when we evaluate an idea based on the merits of the idea. However, it is wrong to want to be like someone else because of how we will be perceived by others and it is wrong to support an idea solely because someone else who is influential has the same idea. We shouldn’t allow our emotional need for acceptance to influence our understanding or our support of the truth.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I guess I should stop commenting on all of you posts, eh? They are all interesting and thought provoking. Once again I learn how much I agree with people that I, well, disagree with. So much of these arguments and culture wars just boil down to a few details here and there.

We all believe in truth, honesty, integrity, honor, etc.

We all fail miserably at living up to that belief.

I have a theory that everyone, conservative, liberal, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, whatever, have basically the same moral values, we just place them in a different order. All our arguments stem from which morals should trump the others when push comes to shove in a complex world.