Summary: We must never let our desire for the approval of others become the major force is determining who we are or what we think.
As a very young child, one of my greatest fears was going to the hen house and gathering eggs. My grandmother had hundreds of chickens and she traded eggs at the local store for things like salt and pepper and fabric. Normally she was the one who gathered the eggs, but if I failed to get out to the barn fast enough I would get stuck with the job. Believe you me, the threat of having to gather eggs was all the motivation I needed for wanting to be the first one to leave the breakfast table and go to the barn.
Those rare mornings when I was day dreaming, or as grandpa would say: I had my head in a dark place, I would stay at the breakfast table just a bit too long. Then it would happen. My grandma would look at me and point to the egg gathering pail. It was truly a spirit crushing moment. As I slowly trudged to the hen house I would fantasize about ways to make all chickens suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth. Alas, when I arrived at the hen house and opened the door the stench of chickens would envelop me like an evil cloud straight out of the pits of hell. There was no turning back; with stomach retching from fear and the foul smell I would drive forward to accomplish my appointed mission. I actually can still feel the apprehension raging through my soul as I reached out to get an egg from under a hen that had sitting on her mind. Most folks do not realize it, but a mad-hen does not just pinch you with her beak; she pinches and twists all at the same time. For an adult this action is more annoying than anything else, but the thought of being torn to shreds by a chicken was something that filled me with dread. Each time I entered the hen house I was faced with a dilemma. I was scared of a hen hurting me; yet, I was determined to not be afraid. I wanted to ignore the egg under the chicken but I was afraid grandma would find out. Every fiber of my body wanted to turn and run but my mind was dominated by the expectations of others … I was to act like a man. I suppose most of all, I was mad at myself for having had my head in a dark place, which resulted in my not getting out to the barn fast enough.
SOCIAL AND PEER PRESSURES
Today, as I sit here, an old man with time to think about life, I am of the belief this early lesson in concurring fear, just to meet the approval of others, is a two edged sword. On the one hand we strengthen our resolve by facing our fears but on the other hand we run the risk of allowing ourselves to be manipulated by the expectations of others. For example, our responding to a triple-dog-dare could very well prove we have guts, but it could also result in our being put in a rather awkward position: not to mention potential pain. Here is the way I see it, before we allow the fear of disapproval to control our actions we need to determine if there is sufficient justification for our meeting the desire of others. In doing this, I am firmly convinced that we should never let our concern about the opinion of other people overly influence our decision making. When we let the fear of disapproval become the dominate influence in determining our next course of action we have let go of logic and we have allowed fear to control our mind. Of course, the other edge of the sword clears a path for self-improvement. As a young child I conquered fear in order to meet the expectations of those guiding me to manhood. I never did get used to the smell of stinking chickens, but I did learn to grab the neck of a sitting chicken with one hand and retrieve the egg with my other hand. I conquered my fear and developed great hand eye coordination. As an adult I have learned to respect the desires of others but my major concern is meeting the expectations of my heavenly father
The fear of rejection or disapproval experienced by a young child, faced with egg gathering, may be an extreme situation, but the foundation it rests on is the same as our fear of social and peer rejection. Think about this for a moment. Do we not give special attention to how we groom ourselves, how we cloth ourselves, how we entertain ourselves, and how we conduct ourselves? Of course we do. We may even force ourselves to think and speak in accordance with the expectations of others. It is amazing how many people let their desire for approval compel them to conform to the opinion of those around them. Watch a few TV commercials and it will become blatantly obvious that Americans are obsessed with the opinion of other people. According to commercials we are supposed to constantly ask ourselves: am I too fat, do I have the right style cloths, am I eating in the right restaurant, am I tanned enough, am I reading the right books, am I exercising enough, do I listen to the right music, do I drive the right car, and on infinitum. Our personal fear of social and/or peer rejection may or may not be traumatic; still, it would be ridiculous for us to deny the role this fear has played in shaping who we are and what we believe. After all, we are social creatures, which makes it essential for us to conform to general standards set by the community; thus, our desire for personal and social approval is absolutely normal. The problem arises when we become obsessed with letting the opinion of others dictate who we are and how we think. Conforming to social norms is not the issue; the issue is our being overly influenced by manufactured social standards, and our bowing to cult or subculture social and peer pressures.