Monday, August 13, 2012

Standing Up Alone

Peer pressure.  It's something that is usually spoken about regarding teenagers and sex, alcohol, and drugs.  Teens are taught to be strong and not give in to peer pressure.  The thing is, though, peer pressure doesn't go away once one passes into adulthood.  It is alive and well, and most people generally want to follow the crowd and not step out alone.  Whether it is because they don't want to make a scene or because they are scared, it still happens.

A couple of weeks ago, the biggest topic for days was Chik-Fil-A and whether or not one would join on the side of the boycotters or join on the side of those eating there on a particular day.  The country was fairly divided over the issue: bloggers weighed in; Facebook statuses were shared, tweets were retweeted.  The message was fairly clear:  pick a side (the correct one).

But what if the group that you would usually side with wasn't who you wanted to side with in this instance?  Did you "cross party lines"?  My guess is that most people would not; most people would stay silent if the majority of their group stood firmly on one side.  Most people who felt differently from their friends probably would not dissent.  And why not?  Dissenting, being the odd one out, is hard.  It brings uncertainty and fear:  of whether or not one is actually right, of whether or not one will be vilified, of whether or not one will lose friends, respect, opportunities, you name it.  

Frank Viola recently wrote a piece about being a dissenter.  He distinguishes between two types of dissenters:  disgruntled dissenters (angry, bitter, and misguided people with their own agendas) and sober-minded dissenters (people with good judgement, prophetic insight, and wisdom).  It seems to me that the disgruntled dissenter has it easier than the sober-minded dissenter.  The sober-minded dissenter, I think, is taking a bigger risk, precisely because she or he cannot be written off as angry or bitter.

This stirred in me thoughts of my own fears and hesitations about voicing my thoughts and opinions when they may be different than most of the people around me, or I just think they may be different.

I remember the day I decided to "like" Rob Bell on Facebook, knowing that I had friends who were very much against his ideas.  I wondered "who will see that I did this?  Will they think less of me?  Will they question my faith?"  I was afraid.

Pam Hogweide, author of Unladylike:  Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church recently wrote a blog post called "Why I am Not a Christian Writer", in which she told the story of how she was all set to write a book when the publisher pulled out due to some of her views they discovered on her blog.  Because of differing points of view regarding gay marriage, the Publisher felt they could not have her as an author. Though this initially crushed her, but eventually she realized she had to stay true to herself and her writing.  She acknowledges that "our beliefs, when spo­ken out loud, can get us into trouble".  And really, who wants to get into trouble?

In the aftermath of the Chik-Fil-A uproar, I listened to Jonathan Martin's sermon "Don't Stand Up For Jesus", and it was as if I heard many of my own broken thoughts and questions put into clear and concise words that I either could not do or have been too afraid to do.  One of the Martin's statements was that "It's easy to buy a chicken sandwich on the right chicken day. Loving people is hard work."  And he's right.

  • It's easy to join in a crowd on any side of an issue.  It's a lot harder to break from the crowd that expects you to be on board with them.
  • It's easy to retweet something that someone else says but a lot harder to make your own statement.
  • It's easy to jump into an issue but a lot harder to think deeply from different points of view about the issue.

There are so many bloggers and writers out there that are not (or don't seem to be!) afraid of voicing their thoughts; I'm not sure I am one of them.  No, that's not quite true.  I know I am not one of them, yet.  Whenever I read something that is a dissenting opinion, yet with which I agree, I wonder "why didn't I say that?"  The answer?  Fear.  It's scary to put my thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see; I am much more comfortable doing it with family and friends that I know well, but strangers?  On the Internet, anything that is written is up for debate and dissection, and I don't have a thick enough skin for it at this point.  But at the same time, I think, if I read thoughts that I wish I'd said, maybe there are things that I have to say that other people would feel the same way about as well.

I hope that this is part of the process of becoming a better writer; to "write naked", to be true to who I am, to who God is always shaping me to be.

In what way--if any--do you feel afraid to be a dissenter?  How does this affect how you live your life?  Do you feel as if you are not being all that you really are when you keep quiet?  


Joy said...

Great post. I'm afraid I may be a stand out without even trying. Can be a lonely, quiet place.

Kelly J Youngblood said...

Yes, you do definitely stand out, and I admire you for doing so.

Caris Adel said...

yup. So much fear. I'm working on it, but when you do speak up and it feels like you're being alienated? Makes it a lot harder to speak up. This CFA thing made me realize that I would have an easier time speaking up if people were open to hearing other opinions and stories. But when people are dug into their own opinion as being the only right biblical one...then I'm not going to speak up as easily. Which is a shame, all the way around.

Kelly J Youngblood said...

It does make it harder to speak up when you end up being alienated. I just posted a comment on another blog this morning and gave this example (I just went and copied and pasted what I said so I didn't have to retype):

a member of a committee I was on sent all of us on the committee one of the chain-emails about the atheist professor and christian student and suggested that we use it in our moms group. I emailed back and said I didn’t think we should do that and gave a bunch of reasons why the email was not valid. A few days later at our meeting, I had a very chilly reception, and I can only guess that it was because I said God and science were not enemies.

Throughout the whole Chik-Fil-A thing, I actually said very little, other than posting a couple of different things others had written, but through it, since I wasn't trying to shout to be heard, I was able to see where different people were coming from, and I actually learned some new things. Funny that, huh?

I think if someone is so entrenched in one opinion, they really are not going to be able to see another side. Maybe asking questions rather than making statements is the answer in those kinds of situations, but that's also hard because the person then starts to feel as if the questions are an attack...

I think we all just have very little idea on how to have civil discussion.

Handsfull said...

I think I was born to be a dissenter! When I kept quiet, I didn't know who I was - I was raised in a fundamentalist cult, where 'questioning' was the worst sin that could be committed - and it wasn't until I left everything and everyone I knew that I finally discovered me. I love a good argument/discussion, and now that I've uncovered my opinions, it takes a lot to move me from them :)

Kelly J Youngblood said...

I think I am finally discovering me too--or at least a new part of me!

Jim Fisher said...

I recently finished reading "Being Wrong" by Kathryn Schulz for the third time. In it, she points out that “If imagination is what enables us to conceive of and enjoy stories
other than our own, and if empathy is the act of taking other people’s
stories seriously, certainty deadens or destroys both qualities. When we
are caught up in our own convictions, other people’s stories—which is
to say, other people—cease to matter to us"

Certainty is lethal
to two of our most redeeming and humane qualities, imagination and

Convictions and beliefs can be discussed and argued. However when someone surrounds their convictions behind a barricade of certainty, we might as well just walk away. If a commenter doesn't start with an attitude of "I could be wrong about this" then they are just in it for the fight ... or the pleasure of bullying someone ... of hurting someone on purpose.

But, what do I know? I'm just making this stuff up. I could be wrong. :-)