Your Authenticity Relies On Your Community

Your community matters. Those with whom you socialize, work, live, and play are key to your decisions. They are, however, even more important to your follow through on those decisions. In the typical day-to-day of life, we do not even realize the role our people huddles play in the accountability of our decisions (especially the decisions we communicate to them).

In 1964, over 1,000 college students from northern universities applied to be a part of a program named Freedom Summer. These students would spend their summer registering black voters in southern states, such as Mississippi. Of the many students who were accepted and invited to participate in Freedom Summer, several hundred decided to back out of the program. Two decades later, a sociologist at the University of Arizona, Doug McAdam, wanted to know why. Why did these students decide to not get on the bus when it was time to head south?

McAdam had several hypotheses on why students would opt out of their commitment, especially considering the political climate of the country in the mid 1960’s. He supposed that there was a correlation between students declining the invitation (despite the lengthy application process) and family obligations or perhaps religious convictions. However, in his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that, “when McAdam looked at applicants with religious orientations–students who cited a ‘Christian duty to help those in need’ as their motivation for applying, for instance, he found mixed levels of participation.” This finding is particularly discouraging for someone like me who spends a good deal of time encouraging people to act out of their “religious convictions.” I would hope that those who claim a motivation of faith would be the very ones who follow through to action, but McAdam found that it is not the belief itself that truly motivates people to hold to their conviction. Duhigg continues, “However, among those applicants who mentioned a religious orientation and belonged to a religious organization, McAdam found that every single one made the trip to Mississippi. Once their communities knew they had been accepted into Freedom Summer, it was impossible for them to withdraw.”

Not only is the company with which you surround yourself important, but even more vital are the expectations of that company. Do they expect you to keep your word? Do they expect you to exhibit a bias for action when you are describing your passions? Does your company already have in place certain behavioral patterns in which you currently participate to demonstrate your stated values?

Or does your community know that you simply share your perspective on what is wrong with the world today about which you have no real intention of actually pursuing a behavior to address the problem?

There are lots of groups with whom we associate throughout our lives who sit around and talk about what should be done. My desire, however, is to be a part of leading people who expect you to follow through. When the local church is a place of high expectations and strong accountability, we begin to see the world around us change, because action (not word) is the only indication of true conviction.

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