Have you ever heard the phrase “They drank the Kool-Aid”? It is a trite phrase that refers to a tragic event many years ago where people mindlessly committed suicide while blindly following a demented leader. In today’s usage it is about people who blindly, or naively, accept (and sometimes come to believe) all aspects of a party line, ideological position, Fox or MSNBC, corporate culture, a certain leader’s viewpoints, or what “society” expects. They lose their unique identity in that of the larger group and stop thinking for themselves and stop behaving in accordance with their core beliefs (if they even know their core beliefs).
People are social creatures, we want to be be accepted by others. We want the approval of others and we want to be a part of the group, team, company, party, or community. Sometimes so much so, that we become someone who we aren’t. We change our behaviors, we mouth the “by-line” of whatever organization we belong to, or want to belong to, as some sort of mystical mantra. We work hard to find out the cultural norms of the organization or community and then we do our best to adapt to them. All the time losing little pieces of who we are – who we were designed to be. We believe that we have to conform to succeed (whatever that might mean). We allow others to define who we should be or how we should act, or even how we should believe.
In some areas of society such as higher education or the public square, you are labeled intolerant, bigoted, ignorant, or hateful if you express an opinion that does not conform to what is politically correct at the time. While we may recognize that type of overt or blatant pressure/reaction in the public square, the same thing is going on in a more subtle manner in the various institutions or groups we belong to. In subtle ways, we learn what is acceptable and what will earn us disapproval. We accept the leader’s sayings as “gospel” – as truth itself and fail to question the truth and wisdom of the sayings as well as the motivation behind them.
The thing is, we are beautifully unique creations made in the image of the living God. We have a source of Truth that we can go to to test what any man or woman says to us is truth. In fact, we have an obligation to test what we are told. In addition to that, if you are an American or a citizen of a free country, you are a free person and not required to “bend the knee” to any other individual, no matter how powerful or influential. We have the Source of Truth, we have political freedom, and we have our own minds that we must learn to use.
The first step is knowing what you believe and why you believe it. You must know what is Truth. You must decide what are your core beliefs – where is/are the line(s) you will not cross no matter the situation? You must determine how you will react when your core beliefs are challenged for they will be – you can count on that happening. You will need to count the cost and be prepared to pay that cost. It may be a broken relationship, exclusion from a group or community, or the loss of a job. However, it is your responsibility to know what you believe and why you believe it and to determine how that lines up with Truth.
Yes, we need wise people in our lives whom we often heed, we need to be willing to have our thinking challenged by others, we need to be ready to change what we think/believe when we are confronted with Truth that is contrary to what we are thinking. A caution – no person is wise all the time. Sometimes very smart and wise people say or do foolish things. So, it is up to you to check what you are told against Truth – never blindly accept what you are told.
Seek Truth – for me as a Christian, that Truth is found in the Word of God, the Bible. It is an external, objective standard of truth. It is what I use to measure what I am being told by others.
Learn to think for yourself and to measure your thinking (and others) against the standard of Truth. Learn to think for yourself and not just being a “herd animal” blindly repeating the mantras of some leader or talking head on TV. Try being counter-cultural for a bit and define yourself according to Truth and not by how others define you.