|NY Post photo|
A lot has been written and debated this past week over the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri. I watched in horror the unbelievable destruction of property and was amazed at how easily people could choose to do evil. Here are a couple of my observations that I haven't heard or read in all of the discussion.
We all have a natural bent to sin as humans and there is a fragile barrier that keeps a populace from doing evil and living only for themselves. When the people of a society feel justified or are given a license to do wrong, they will jump over the wall of law and order and act irresponsibly, selfishly and/or criminally. Sin is destructive to oneself, but justified sin goes even deeper because it almost always is perpetrated on someone else. It also brings a sense of righteous indignation and therefore brings about little guilt or remorse.
When there is a justification to sin in any of society's systems that are created to maintain a safe and productive society, these institutions begin to crumble whether it is the government, an organization, company, or marriage.
In a marriage, when both the husband and wife slip into justified selfishness, when you begin to justify an affair, your anger, your impatience because your wife or husband is not treating you right, then you can bet that the marriage is on life support. And the same goes for the government.
The two things that keep order in a society are strong moral values that are embedded into a culture or fear and control by the ruling power. Justified selfishness erodes our moral values and when they deteriorate, then the state has to exercise more fear of punishment on the populace to control them. So when there is a widespread entitlement to act selfishly, society either slips into anarchy or into a police state.
My second observation is that people watch and listen and take their clues from their leaders and the power of suggestion can easily motivate people in the wrong direction. We are prone to sin without any prompting, so when those in authority give the impression by an action, inaction, words or even their silence, that it is ok to misbehave, we will jump at the opportunity.
Ferguson is an example but we've seen this before. College students and young people have done similar acts of destruction when their team wins or loses an important game. You'll see criminal behavior, breaking into and looting buildings, burning cars, sofas and the like, tearing up property, all in the name of celebrating a win. Who gives them permission to do this? Where did young people get the idea that it is ok to do evil when their team wins or loses? Could it be that the leaders of the institution, by their silence, somehow give permission to do this.
Our society's tolerance of sex outside of marriage is another example. Few of our leaders have proclaimed outright that teens should have sex any time they desire but when we pass out free condoms and emphasize safe sex to our teenagers, it sends a message to teens that it is ok as along as you are safe. It may be a subtle message but you can see the power of suggestion and the consequences. We have a whole generation of teens who view casual sex as the norm and as a result we have a huge increase in unwanted pregnancies, teens with STD viruses, abortions and an abundance of single moms.
- Justified sin is the undoing of all of our basic social institutions.
- People look to their leaders and take their clues from what they say or don't say.
- When our leaders lie, or abuse power, their followers will feel justified in doing so also.
- Whether you are leading your family, church, business or country, you have a great responsibility. Clear communication of what you expect from your followers and embodying the values your organization deems important are the keys to leading well.
Can you think of a time when something you said, did or failed to say or do gave someone "permission" to do the wrong thing?