“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”
We live in a time when taking stands is the most urgent thing to do but also one of the most difficult things to do.
There is a behavioural economics theory—the information cascade phenomenon—applied to financial markets, business strategies and politics. It occurs when people choose to imitate what they’ve observed other people doing even if their own perception or knowledge tells them otherwise. It’s why people follow "the herd."
Experts found small companies make decisions according to what larger, successful companies have done, without applying what they know about their own situation, often leading to poor decisions.
This has been further applied to human behaviour and it was found that sometimes no verbal communication is needed for ideas to be accepted and perpetuated in society. It has been used to explain how children learn good, acceptable behaviour, how certain models become super models, and how fashion trends begin.
As Hitler rose to power and began to persecute the Jews there were very few who took a stand against what was happening. Many soldiers said they didn’t know what was actually going on. Herbert Mochalski, a German soldier, shares, “It’s nonsense when a German soldier says that he never saw anything, that the soldiers didn’t know anything. It’s all simply not true.” They didn’t know, because they didn’t want to know.
There are many reasons for a negative information cascade like this. It could be fear, it could be self-doubt, it could be lack of clarity or even just plain indifference. During these times a few choose to go against the grain and become courageous trailblazers. Those who are able to take a stand, and contribute to a new information cascade.
Pandita Ramabai, the great Indian social reformer, was born at a time when girls were given in marriage at the age of nine, the practice of Sati (widow burning) was common, widows lived in appalling conditions and education for women was not an option.
She said, “Men look on us women as chattels: we make every effort to deliver ourselves from this situation. But some will say that this is a rebellion against man, and that to do this is sin. To leave men's evil acts un-rebuked and remain unmoved before them is a great sin.”
Taking stands and being a trend setter can be a lonely affair. Some of history’s heroes were called rebels or trouble-makers. Their efforts were met with more opposition than applause. They were imprisoned, humiliated and rejected. Many of them only got the recognition they deserved after they died.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to go against the grain and take stands. How do you start new information cascades? How do you make sure you’re not part of a negative information cascade? What are some counter cultural values we need to uphold today?
Sometimes when we take a stand people may disagree or reject us. Our fear of rejection and our need for affirmation can keep us from putting ourselves into this vulnerable position. But we have a resource that can give us the courage we need to take a stand.
We have a relationship with One who faced the ultimate rejection so that we would be accepted. Not only was He betrayed by one of His closest companions, He was publicly humiliated, and rejected by His own Father for our sake.
When we are able to embrace this truth we will operate out of His acceptance and love for us. Rejection will no longer be an intolerable burden but a light discomfort. We will be empowered to face it with courage, knowing we are accepted by One whose approval matters more than any other.
Martin Luther King Jr. said,
“Never, never be afraid to do what is right. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our souls when we look away.”
How can we learn to live out of God’s approval? What are some ways we can overcome our fear of rejection?
What stands are you meant to take today?
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