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Courage Has Fallen on Hard Times

Without sounding too much like a boastful dad, I’m proud of all three of my kids, and two weeks ago my youngest son gave me another reason why.

As a freshman at Indiana University, Luke is required to take Introduction to Speech.  Remember those fun days?  All thirty students were required to give a position speech on a controversial topic.  He chose gentrification.  One student chose gender identity.  Another student chose abortion.  No disrespect to his topic, but it was like the kiddie pool in a wave-pool theme park. 

With each speech, the professor asked the students to choose which side they were on and why.  When it came to the speech on abortion, the professor asked who was pro-choice, and every student raised his or her hand . . . every student except one.

When Luke told me this story, I asked him how he felt being the minority, and he said, “Dad, I think there were other students who are pro-life, but they probably caved in under pressure.” 

Why do we do that? Why do we cave in under pressure? In looking back over the years, I know I have.  I’ve been in meetings where I’ve not spoken up because I knew I held the minority view. I’ve been with friends who swayed me to do things I knew were wrong.  I’ve laughed at inappropriate jokes because I wanted to fit in. 

Courage has fallen on hard times.

In a classic study conducted by Charlan Nemeth and Cynthia Chiles, a researcher showed a group of four participants a series of twenty slides all marked with the color blue. The participants were asked to state the color of each slide.  It was an easy task, and all four said, “Blue” (The Power of Moments, 191-192).

Then the group was divided, and each participant was put into a new group with three other participants. This time the first slide was red, but oddly the first three participants called the color “orange.”  That happened nineteen more times with the three other group members insisting the color was always orange.  On average, the fourth participant, who was part of the original group, called fourteen of the twenty red slides “orange,” conforming to the majority’s incorrect view.  (The other three participants, as you might have guessed, were pre-arranged.)

In another series of tests, when one of the group participants stood up to the majority view, other group participants started to do the same.  What’s the moral of the story?  The bad news is that when no one takes a stand, most people cave to the majority view, even if it is wrong.  The good news is that when someone is brave enough to defy the majority, others are emboldened and follow suit.

In other words, courage is contagious.  Thank you, Luke, for showing your dad (and others) a moment of courage.  Now the question is, Who is going to follow?    

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with