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Transformation or conformity

By Jim Killebrew

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[December 02, 2013]  The other day a news report stated that people have been shown to be desensitized to the reality shows on television. As each individual or "team" tries to outdo their opponents to "win" the prize, they use whatever means necessary to best the others. Sometimes that even takes the form of dishonest dealings with each other, deception, lying or cutting corners in order to win. The report showed that people who watch those reality programs often have become desensitized to the bickering and the arguing and other things that are happening in those programs, and it has become the new normal. Without even realizing it, the people watching the "reality" shows actually begin to adopt the methods and outcomes they have seen on those shows into their personal lives.

It is not surprising that Christians oftentimes get caught up in these programs as well. People who watch often identify with a favorite person or team and become emotionally involved by rooting for them to perform better so they can win over the others.

We read in Romans 12 that we should not be conformed to the world order of things; instead, we should be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

A social psychologist named Charles Cooley defined what he called the "looking glass self" he first used in a book entitled "Human Nature and the Social Order," 1902. He described consistent observations of persons acting or behaving in ways they thought others' had perceived them. The person's "self" was formed and developed through interpersonal relationships and from the perceptions of others. His "looking glass self" was the formation of a personal conforming to what people thought others were thinking about them. People are so willing to have others thinking good things about them, they will change their behavior to please their friends, thereby "conforming" to the expectations of those whom they value.

Think of a group of teenagers who see the "stars" setting the trends. A recent example is the behavior of Miley Cyrus who developed a character of "Hanna Montana" but has more recently tried to transform herself into seemingly an adult soft-porn star. Her more wholesome persona as Hanna was copied by millions of young girls who wanted to be just like her. The process of "conforming" usually happens when most of a young girl's friends try to emulate the behavior of the stars, but the girl who resists is brought into conformity by the interpersonal relationships experienced by the person's perception of what the other girls think about her when she doesn't morph into another "Hanna."

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Of course, Cooley may have identified this phenomenon through observation and labeling the "looking glass self," but the Apostle Paul recognized it almost 2,000 years ago, noting that as we interact with others, forming interpersonal relationships and watching the world go by, we are always in danger of conforming our "self" with those around us as we try to please them and keep them as our friends.

Paul, having recognized that phenomenon, wrote that Christians, with the help of the power of the Holy Spirit, should "transform" their "selves" and "renew" their minds by testing those things around us happening in the world, and approve their "self-concept" with consistency to God's will. This results in living a life that is "good, well-pleasing and perfect."


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