In honor of the upcoming holiday, I wanted to share about a lighter subject with you today. Below is an excerpt from my 2019 book, You Can Visit, but You Can’t Live There: Keys to Living Free from Fear, Anxiety, and Guilt.
One of my favorite memories from when I was younger was our tradition for the day after Thanksgiving. My mom, aunt Nancy, and cousin Dana would take the bus to town for a day of shopping and lunch. We would walk past the department store window displays that were decorated for Christmas. There was one last stop we made before boarding the bus for home—the candy store! This was my favorite part of the day.
Even as we got older and had our own children, we kept the tradition going for a while. We no longer took a bus downtown, but all the ladies in the family would meet up for a day of food and shopping. But as the trend toward online shopping has skyrocketed, sometimes my mom and I opt to just meet for coffee and shop on Amazon in order to avoid the crowds.
The older I get, the more I have come to realize that the key to living free is to avoid the crowds. No, I’m not talking about staying away from the shopping malls during the holiday season. I’m talking about thinking for yourself.
Don’t Do It
Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean it’s what’s best for you. The crowd isn’t your friend. The crowd will turn on you faster than you can blink.
In 2017, CBS launched a new drama series entitled Wisdom of the Crowd.[i] The show was based on a tech innovator’s attempt to create a digital platform for the general public around the world to share and review tips and evidence for criminal investigations. The driving force behind this is the main character’s need to find his daughter’s killer. The show was cancelled after thirteen episodes. Hmm… I don’t know exactly why the show was scratched, but could it be because there is no wisdom in the crowd?
Group demonstrations have attracted thousands of people who wanted “their voice to be heard.” But whose voice? Some minority groups have actually started to boycott these groups claiming to speak for minorities because, ironically, they feel they are being discriminated against. Many of us are beginning to realize that it is impossible for my voice to be heard in a group.
Following the crowd, or even thinking like the crowd, will rarely benefit anyone… especially you as an individual.
Avoiding the crowd and thinking for yourself means that you are the expert in your own life. You can make any decision you choose. You can marry who you want, dress how you want, pursue the career you want…but choose wisely! Some of our choices will support our personal freedom, while others have the potential to imprison us—not only physically, but emotionally, socially, or spiritually. It’s important to understand that we have complete control over our actions, but not over the consequences of those actions.
Likewise, hiding in the crowd can be an easy way to avoid personal responsibility. Our culture has deceived us into thinking that we’re all victims. Even when I haven’t been directly targeted, if a crime has been committed against a single member of my group, the crime has—by proxy—been committed against me. If I am a victim by association, then I can claim plausible deniability for any consequence that I have brought upon myself.
The term groupthink was first defined in 1952 by Merriam-Webster as “a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics.”[ii] Groupthink is in direct opposition to the idea of living free because it forces me, as an individual, to hold onto every offense that has ever happened to someone who may look similar to me. But if we going to be free, we have to avoid groupthink and the victim mentality. Sexism, racism, or any other forms of discrimination will never be solved by identifying with the crowd.
It’s my personal observation that conflict of any kind can only be resolved the old-fashioned way: face-to-face, one-on-one. Having a “national conversation,” as I hear many commentators call for, will never resolve the issue. One side will never be persuaded by the other that they were wrong, and that they should abandon their position. The more that we speak at each other, the further apart the chasm grows. If you doubt this, just start engaging in political discussions publicly on social media and see if you are able to convince your friends that their viewpoints are wrong.
Instead, trying meeting with one individual with whom you disagree with over coffee, and just listen for starters. My grandfather Angelo used to say, “Always listen to others, because then you will be twice as smart as them. You’ll know what you know, and you’ll know what they know.”
You are the only one that can break the cycle of discrimination—both as the victim and/or the perpetrator—in your own life. This doesn’t mean that you have not experienced prejudice or been discriminated against. Every day there are terrible crimes committed against individuals and entire races, both in our country, and around the world. The reality, however, is that whatever happens to others, or by others, is outside our direct circle of control. We can only focus on our own experience.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Do you want to be free? Avoid the crowds and follow the God who created you and has a purpose and plan for your life. He has given you a sound mind in order to achieve that purpose. God has provided detailed instructions for you on life, love, and how to reach your final destination in His divinely inspired and preserved memoir (i.e., the Bible).
Please understand: Religion is not the answer. Jesus is the answer. A lot of well-meaning groups (i.e., crowds) have developed elaborate systems of rules and regulations that can often become a hinderance to finding the truth about God. Religion creates an “us versus them mentality,” but God does not. He extends His grace and offer of salvation to all of us individually, regardless of the crowd with which we associate.
Do you want to be truly free? Then you must search for the truth, not whichever version is trending this month.