Too often I find myself living my life for the benefit of the room. As if, my words and actions are conditional based on who’s around at the time. Erin and I have had many conversations about this as it relates to parenting. For example, if we are in a room with other parents who have very strict views on discipline and our children start to misbehave, we may find ourselves being less patient and gracious with them than we normally would be. And when we are in a room of parents who are more relaxed with their discipline we may let them get away with far more than we normally would, all while resisting the urge to drop-kick our children (and theirs) into the next room. It’s like we feel a pressure to parent for the benefit of the room as opposed to what we truly believe to be best for our children. And this kind of thing extends way beyond just parenting.
In Galatians chapter 2 Paul confronts Peter about how his actions were alienating the Christians who weren’t Jews and putting an unnecessary pressure on them to conform to the cultural standards and ceremonial laws of their Jewish brothers. I have always viewed this as a confrontation about Peter’s beliefs. But I was reading through the account again today and I saw this:
“…he (Peter) was eating with the Gentiles (those who were not Jewish and did not conform to Jewish Cultural standards and ceremonial laws); but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party (those who believed that anyone who wants to follow Jesus must also be subject to Jewish customs and laws).”
Paul recognized that this was not how Peter normally acted and it was not a reflection of what Peter believed to be true. He was not confronting Peter for wrong beliefs, he was confronting him because he was allowing the individuals in the room to dictate his words and actions more than his own worldview and beliefs. He was putting everything he knew to be true about the world into subjection to whatever view was most popular at the moment.
We hate this kind of stuff. This is what politicians get blasted for. This is what gives us uneasy feelings about certain people. Because they’re all surface with no depth. They’re all show. But if you put the right people in the room I will bend like a wet noodle and throw my entire worldview into the backseat.
I think we do this for two primary reasons:
1) to avoid conflict
2) to be loved
But peace and love earned in this way is shallow and fleeting. It is not grounded in respect. And it’s not really you that they like anyway, it’s actually a reflection of themselves. It seems to me that it is better to be respected than liked. And you will never be a true leader or an influencer if you bow your knee to popular opinion and fold on your convictions.
“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion” – Jack Kerouac