Tag Archives: groups

Is There Safety In Numbers?

photowalk_17-sculpturesThis evening I took part in an awesome gathering called Living In The Tension led by my friend Andy Marin.  In discussing how people respond to change, I bean to think about my own experiences with sudden fear and rejection because I’d done something different or the other person learned something about me that they didn’t know before.  People get defensive when change happens, especially if it’s unexpected or doesn’t fit within the parameters of what they are already accustomed to — just look at the responses to the recent Facebook change.

Darren in Elkhart, Indiana with his first set of locs
Darren in Elkhart, Indiana with his first set of locs

In 2005 I’d begun to grow and loc my hair for the first time.  I was doing it totally on my own and had no support – and it looked like it 🙄 .  Most people liked it at first, but you could see the reserve in some peoples eyes.  As the weeks turned into months, that reserve grew into outright disapproval and even a few accusations.  Up until that point, I was the only one in my circle (community, church, and even small northwestern Indiana city) who was locking their hair.  People just didn’t understand why I wanted to do that to my hair.  They asked all kinds of off the wall questions as well.  One even went as far as to say locking was a “gay thing”. I chose to loc my hair because I wanted to do something different. Up until then, I’d always kept my look and hair styled on what I thought others would approve of.  Never before had I dared to embrace a different look.  And in doing so I met great resistance.  I was doing something different and the community reacted — to protect themselves from the unknown.

I think this is a natural response that’s at our core – when we encounter something we don’t understand we put up defense just in case it may harm us.  We also ‘alert’ those around us to the danger.  You see it on Animal Planet all the time.  But as humans created in the image and likeness of God, we’re called to do more than simply react.  We’re able to examine and think and choose how to respond to what has been introduced to us.  Unfortunately, that takes some examination, vulnerability, and even an intentional effort.

But why make all this effort when you can just go with the crowd?  Is that in part the foundation of how our society works?  We have sets of generally agreed upon beliefs and practices that allow us to somewhat peacefully coexist.  Anything that threatens that existence we expel from our circle for the sake of the circle being unbroken.  For the most part it works for us, but it also can lull us into not thinking for ourselves.  We don’t examine or cross examine, we just do what’s been done and never think twice about if it’s helping or hurting.  And so it goes that when people, ideas, or whatever else is different, we shy away or even violently reject it.

And what happens to the outcasts?  Well even an outcast needs friends… and so the outcasts join together unified by their rejection.  They may even identify themselves based on whatever has caused them to be rejected.  It becomes their identity even though it’s only part of who they are, but for the sake of belonging, they now adapt the values of this outcast circle.

What’s one to make of all this? Just think…

If we stay conscious about what we think and feel, I hope that we can make these circles better.  We don’t have to abolish these circles altogether, but rather, make them better. We can be intentional about who we include in our circle realizing that if we do it right, it makes things richer for everyone involved.

It’s late and I hope that makes sense to whoever the 10 or so people are who will ever read this. 😕

This is just a thought… there’s more to come.