Herd Mentality

I’m told one of our Change Makers (a.k.a.-teachers) had a great discussion with our Jr. High students today. I wasn’t there for the discussion, but overheard a few comments. The phrase herd mentality was mentioned.

The phrase brought a number of memories to mind, in fact, it made a smile come to my face. We chased chickens when I was young, got run over by relocating flocks of sheep, and moved many cattle from pasture to pasture among many other herd-type situations. I can’t count the number of minutes, that surely add up to days, we spent chasing a band of horses who didn’t want to be caught.

We once visited the Navajo Nation when I was a student teacher. A Navajo teacher told a riddle, he called it a math problem.

If you have 10 sheep on the top of the hill and 4 leave, how many do you have left?

The answer is not 6, it’s neither 5… or 7 (if your math is off some). The Navajo didn’t give the answer, he just smiled.  It was his way of being able to tell who he was dealing with.  The answer is… 0.

All these memories serve as a reminder of what herd mentality looks like. If one animal does it, the rest do it.  In fact, this instinct can be tied so deeply, it can lead an animal to its death. Many buffalo have run off of a cliff following the animal in front of them.

It turns out that the buffalo are not the only ones to make this mistake.  You don’t have to look around very long to see the herd patterns you’re in.  Watch for monotony, it’s a good indicator of herd pattern. We often do what is being done as modeled by someone else.

It seems that Christians are particularly good at herd patterns.  It’s often hard to distinguish the blurred lines of timeless Christian faith and American Christian culture.  To make it worse, if you step outside of the herd patterns, it is almost guaranteed that someone will doubt your salvation.

Questions are one way to check herd boundaries. In Christian culture, questions seem to take a back seat to answers.  How did we arrive at this equation?

Questions = Doubt = Lack of Faith

You know what can be found outside the herd, or flock, or gaggle? [A pause while you look up gaggle?] Freedom, and life, and creativity, and new possibilities, and greener pastures, and a whole array of other wonderful assets. One could argue that you can find these within the herd- and what about safety?  True, but when’s the last time freedom felt new?

I’m not sure what the Jr. High specifically talked about today, but I’m glad they did. I hope our students wander into the big, wonderful world with eyes wide open. I pray they will be able to discern the herd patterns and look for opportunities to lead rather than follow all the time. Our students will be Change Makers because we are introducing them to the possibility of such.

I secretly chuckle inside when someone refers to Jesus’ words about us being a flock of sheep like it’s some flattering reference. It seems Jesus called us a flock for many reasons, most are not complimentary. The focus in the metaphor is who Jesus is as Shepherd, why would it be flattering to be referred to as a sheep?

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