Aren’t we all just basically like me?

27 Dec

While a student delegate to a leadership conference, I heard a talk by one of the senior staff, also senior pastor at a large church, who in the course of his talk, said something like, “We have to admit that we all want to be in control. Let’s face it–that’s why we’re here, why we are in the positions we are.” It didn’t sit right with me, and I thought, even if it’s true for some in the room (all top level national student ministry leaders, almost all men in their forties through sixties), it seemed disrespectful, invasive somehow to make such assumptions about everyone based on the speaker’s own personality or inclination. Was I supposed to recognize that at the base of my interest in being a leader was necessarily a controlling personality? So I, we, could confess it, choose to “let go and let God” and so on. But that shoe just didn’t fit. I don’t really want to be a leader. I don’t like being in charge, and the more influence I may have over people, the more trepidation and sense of burdensome responsibility I feel. Sure I want to influence, but because of principle, and in the way I would want to be influenced–through education, reason, relationship, example, for my own good and willing usefulness to others. Not through any kind of control, however subtle.

Now I have a mental antenna for such statements, in speeches, books, sermons, advertisements, and conversation. When I read on a book overleaf that “Every educated person must read this” or “no one can fail to conclude…” or some such, I shake my head. It’s just another form of “Do this, and you’ll fit in with the group.” Again, it overlooks individuality, appeals to the herd instinct, that desire to be moving along with the crowd. I suppose some people want to be influenced that way–in a sense they don’t feel comfortable believing or doing things that aren’t already accepted by a critical mass of others, or seem to be.

We have all succumbed to the temptation to make choices based on majority choices. Which MP3 player to buy? You ask the guy working on the floor. He shows you the “best seller.” As if that’s necessarily the best choice. No intelligent person would think so. See, now I’m doing it to you–did you notice? “We have all…”, “No intelligent person would think…” making assumptions about you and inviting you to believe them in order to move you on to accept my next idea. Watch out.

On the other hand, maybe there’s a lesson here. It’s true, apparently, that influencing people, whole bunches of people, is about convincing a few, a laborious and seemingly fruitless process at times, but who then make the masses believe it’s the new normal, by a kind of cultural diffusion. It’s the scientifically tested ten percent rule. Essentially, once ideas are accepted by a critical mass of ten percent of folks, the majority will accept the same ideas. Read more here:

Gives me hope that maybe soon we’ll reach the tipping point for ideas about peak oil, global climate change, the need to power down and transition to a low energy lifestyle and resilient local economies. A little late, because of the tipping point of the changes themselves, but still, maybe we can survive them better, lighten the blow on the most vulnerable, share the burdens, and eventually thrive in some new way.

That ten percent will be a hard-won accomplishment, a labor of generations, even. A constant telling and retelling. Talked to my dad on the phone the other night about that, how he had to tell us over and over to turn off the lights when we left rooms, close the door and keep the heat in, put on a sweater instead of asking to turn up the heat. We just want our kids to get it, understand the whys, and be motivated to do what’s right on their own, but instead there’s a need to remind over and over and at least help them form the necessary habits. I thanked him for not giving up, for telling and retelling us. He knew way back that our over consumption would come back to bite us, and in his writings, lifestyle and conversations chipped away at the erroneous majority opinion.

So press on, prophets, preachers, workers, writers, artists, parents, leaders, all. As the apostle Paul said, ‘let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)


Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Culture & Society, Parenting & Family


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

4 responses to “Aren’t we all just basically like me?

  1. jdawgsrunningblog

    December 28, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Powerful meditation—deserves a wider audience—blends the personal and the political and strikes just the right tone. Nice work with this.

    • toesinthedirt

      December 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Thanks for the positive feedback–very encouraging, it is.

  2. Domini Hedderman

    December 30, 2013 at 7:31 am

    I hear what you’re saying and agree that your post is a beautiful pondering with just the right tone. In fact, I haven’t commented before but read most of your posts and really enjoy your writing and ideas. Thank you!

    The topic of leadership is an interesting one and has always been an important element of our human walk through this world. I agree that everyone seems to be selling something. In our fast-paced culture, especially, we’re bombarded with messages, advertising, political, and otherwise. And often the leaders who are supposed to be protecting our rights, our health, and our environment are only saving their own individual hides and couldn’t care less for what’s best for the majority.

    I’d like to think good leaders exist, however, who lead from love instead of ego. The Buddha, Jesus Christ, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and so many others have led from love and heart, with little thought to their own well-being. Instead, they led people to the light of truth, ignoring themselves in the process.

    Where are leaders like that today? We don’t often see them in government since the flawed system fails even those who join it trying to make a positive difference. So maybe the leaders are the bloggers, like you and me, with our quiet voices. Maybe they are our kids, who we are teaching the new paradigm. Maybe the new leaders are writing quiet books and making quiet documentaries and leading a quiet movement in protest of what is. Maybe the new leaders are quiet but gaining courage quietly, and maybe they’ll eventually outnumber the ego-centric leaders. And eventually, maybe there will be a tipping point and a new, better world will begin to emerge.

  3. toesinthedirt

    December 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Yes, I think the “light of truth” is the important thing, as you say. True leadership, whether the up-front, historically noticeable kind like that of the big names you mention above, or through one’s daily interactions chiefly by example, should all be for the sake of pointing to the light of truth, in its many forms, and out of love. Truth personal, relative, and situational, and also truth universal.

    Thank you so much for commenting, and taking the time to read here.


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