Dogs are social animals. They enjoy hanging out with a human companion, napping in front of the TV set or chasing a Frisbee. They also enjoy hanging out with canine companions, hiking the fields and swapping stories about the prey “this big” that got away.
In a group they can become a pack with primal instincts and deadly consequences. A quiet, gentle, cat-and-small-animal-loving dog will join his companions in attacking other animals – and possibly humans - for the sheer sport of killing. They easily fall into the pack mentality of doing things together each might not consider doing apart from the pack.
This same trait is exhibited in human nature, but whereas dogs as a pack will attack and kill other living creatures, human beings as a group attack and kill reputations.
In a group setting, prohibitions can disappear. Everyone wants to fit in and be one of the “guys,” accepted by the group and participating in any discussion. Small talk can take a bad turn, melding into gossip and plowing into “catty.” In the extreme, exaggerations and outright lies can flow without conscious thought. Someone’s reputation is stained or attacked and killed without viable thought and often without malevolence. Humans easily fall into the group mentality of doing things together each might not consider doing apart from the group.
This was brought home to me with several recent events. One eye-opener began as an angry meeting where the incoming president and members discussed the outgoing president and treasurer, who had used a little ingenuity to clean out the treasury. With only a few meetings under my belt, I could not participate in a conversation of broken by-laws, and I did not want to participate in the character appraisal of the outgoing officers, which wandered off the path and into the brierpatch.
The members were understandably angry, but I had nothing to contribute so I sat quietly and left when the meeting ended. I then became the topic of conversation. “Jan didn’t say anything tonight. She must be with them.”
This incident was a reminder that sometimes silence is viewed as tacit agreement or complicity. Sometimes you have to take a stand and let others know where you stand.
A week later I did, with another group, one that had lost its community focus and had become a small group that meets mainly to complain and bear tales on the neighbors. “I see your neighbor hasn’t cut his grass.” “The neighborhood is full of rentals and renters don’t care.” (Hey, folks, I’m a renter!)
The members are good, kind, Bible-believing, church-attending folks who would not even consider absconding with the treasury, and they might not have realized how far they had strayed from the original purpose of the meetings. I held no illusions that anything I said would change the direction, but I addressed my concerns to the president of the group and, sadly but resolutely, the next day I resigned as secretary.
We are admonished in 1 Peter 4:15: But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.
Of course, a loner can become a busybody, but a group seems to unconsciously egg on the timid and add bluster to the overzealous, so choose groups wisely, and avoid “running with the pack.” A Christian should stand out in a group just as much by what he does not verbalize as by what he does.