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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Who Are You Hanging Around With?

I started giving a personality test that I still use almost thirty years ago. The test is unique. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete and it addresses two significant factors besides our personalities. It claims (and I can substantiate this claim after careful observation for the last three decades) that we act like we are expected to act 85% of the time.

This means that we will generally act in a way consistent with the people we are with. Of course, that means that we can continue to be with these people because their acceptance of us in contingent on our compliance with the group's social interaction. In other words, we must act like those whom we are with or they will think of us as strange and ultimately reject our inclusion into the group.

I was thinking about this as I prepared for our church's annual Graduate Recognition Sunday. I told the students that their success will be largely based on those they hang around with. They will party if they hang around with the party crowd. They will study if they hang around with the study crowd. They will drink with the drinkers, loaf with the loafers and choke with the smokers.

I told these graduates that their lives will change dramatically after their graduations. They have the opportunity of changing their futures. God has great plans for each one of them (and everyone else for that matter. The first step is to determine who He wants you to be and to hang around the people who are reflect that. Don't be afraid of being the dumbest person in the room. It is a great way to get much smarter. Successful people hang around successful people.

That doesn't mean that you don't love people who aren't like you want to be. God even loves the drinkers and loafers (the prostitutes, drug dealers and preachers are included in there somewhere). We are called to change the world by following the Lord. That means we will spend some time with the ones we don't want to become.

The people we hand around with, however, need to be those whom we want to become. The social pressure to act consistent with a group is enough to change our reputation from being mediocre to being everything that God wants us to be.

Over the years I have had many husbands tell me of their marital problems. They tell me that their wives are getting more and more distant from them. They tell me that their wives are hinting or actually asking for divorce. I have consistently asked these men who their wives were haning around with. All of these women without exception were hanging around with other divorced women. These divorced woment were counseling their friends to get a divorce and join the ranks of the singles.

None of the men who have come to me were innocent. Every wife had a legitimate complaint about her husband but I do not think she would have considered divorce so confidently if she hadn't been hanging around divorced women. Divorce is almost guaranteed if another man woos her during this period of time. She will start acting single because this new man expects her to act this way. (The same could be said for men in this example.)

So, be careful who you hang around with. It can change your future for the better or the worse.

Psalm 26:4-5 (NIV) 4 I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites; 5 I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.


high-expressions said...

A very good write-up from that verse of Ps 26:4-5.

Only a couple of things from my own observations:

1) You must have right company, foremost. The verse is NOT explicit, but it is implied in there. But I still want to stress it, so that we do NOT start out right, and then, we deteriorate into being like the "bad company" we mix with.

Ps 26:4-5 directly speaks about NOT "associating" with deceitful men or wicked men or evildoers. The "not associating" here means, in how you deal, you should NOT end up taking on their values, attitudes and approaches in life. Ps Prentis' experience tells us that there is a high likelihood you will end up absorbing their values; and in the process crowd out your own values. Actually, 85% is very high, in fact, too high, for us to say there is a high likelihood; more correctly it is, "it will happen, unless ...." There are only 2 ways about this:

(i) Do like what the monks do, go isolate yourself in the monastery. Get away from "all involvements and people". From Scripture, this is NOT the prescription, generally, for believers. The call for us to be light and salt of the world, points to us to be IN the world, although we are NOT to be OF the world. Unless you hear from God directly and specifically, this is NOT the path you should take, I mean, live away from others.

(ii) You must have the "unless". Yes, 85% means you will be "pulled over", sooner or later, unless there is momentum in the opposite direction. Actually, it is NOT that Ps Prentis has NOT said it in his article, it is just that I am emphasizing that you MUST hang with the right company, because it is a MUST, and it is a MUST because you need that momentum in the opposite direction, which the right group will generate, just like the "bad company" will generate, in the opposite direction. Because of the way we are to be, be IN the world and yet NOT to be, back to be OF the world, we need to exercise wisdom. Even if you think you are doing God’s work in the “bad company”, it does NOT mean you cannot be “pulled over”. The point is that you need to pluck-in into another engine or group pulling in the opposite direction. Some days back, in my comment here, against one of Ps Prentis’ entries, I talked about shifting sand or quicksand. The “bad company” is like a patch of quicksand, unless you have a line pulling you in the opposite direction, you can sink deeper and deeper into the quicksand.

Of course, we have to first of all, be plucked-in to the Godhead group. But is that sufficient? No. Yes, you and I need to be plucked-in to the Godhead, yet, we still must be associated with some godly persons. Now, if we look at the character, David, of the Bible, yes, King David, we find that he too needed to associate with some godly persons. The man God said to be the man after His heart, and the man who wrote many of the “intimate” psalms of the Bible, David, he too, needed it. Who was the godly person David associated with, and whom God used to “pull” David back? Prophet Nathan was the man. Those who walk without associating themselves with godly persons who can speak into their lives, are living precariously. Besides, in godly company, the people in it, will encourage and spur one another in the right direction. When you go into a quicksand patch, trying to save another, you better let others of the good company know, so that they can be there, pulling you out when you get dragged in. It is exercise of wisdom and practising humility. We should all move within the measure of faith that we have, and never over-rate ourselves, for we can get into trouble, mixing with those of the world.


high-expressions said...

COnt. from above

2) Difficult to draw people back. Like our teenage children, when they mix with bad company, they get corrupted, and they can be difficult to be drawn back, we, believers, too, we can be difficult to be persuaded back. I do find it difficult to get people to come off, be uncorrupted again. I experienced first-hand, seeing married persons be drawn to divorcee group or “no-string attached” group, and they could not be persuaded to come off, and they crashed their marriages. This one is a very real threat indeed.

3) Changing social norms make it even harder to persuade people to leave groups. Unrestrained liberty and attitude of “live and let live” have become so accepted in the world that it is very difficult to turn people from an undesirable groups or companies. We may end up being labeled as being lacking in love because we are seen as NOT tolerant of others. Nevertheless, we still have our “brother’s keeper” role to perform; we speak our mind, even if the brother does NOT appreciate it.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions