In a post-Enlightenment world, it was long assumed that man is driven by his own reason and that reason is entirely individual and born through self-determination. However, the Living Church of God reviews that in an age of post-modernism, when all things exist together at the same time through global connectivity, social media, and the Internet’s endless cache of webpages, it’s become clear that our views and opinions are largely shaped by forces outside our control.
Social psychologists have even studied and named these effects, highlighting how circulating societal pressures can warp individual views at a subconscious level. This explains how universities often breed extremist politics among young and easily manipulated students. Yet, God’s wisdom has the power to cut through the interference and guide us toward truth.
The Psychology of Social Influence
Social influence is a general term used in the social sciences—psychology, sociology, anthropology—to describe the way in which individuals react to and change in the presence of other people. These interactions are often unspoken, existing at an intersubjective level. They can be as simple as a friend agreeing to see a movie they don’t want to see or as complicated as a peer pressuring a friend to try a drug.
The fascinating thing about social influences, though, is that they also exist on a societal level, not just intersubjectively. A prime example of this is the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany. Just a few years prior to Adolf Hitler’s ascension to the rank of Chancellor, Weimar Germany was renowned as a progressive, hyper-sexualized, modern-day Babylon. Yet, within the span of two years, it transformed into an authoritarian regime.
This can be directly linked to the societal pressure the Nazis imposed on the population. Initially through violence and later through indoctrination, the Nazis played on feelings of societal discontent, economic failure, and a loss of identity to create raging extremists controlled by the state.
Forces of Change Surround Us
Today, we can see similar forces influencing what we should and shouldn’t believe. Between a dishonest media, money-grabbing influencers, and an immoral political system, the voices bellowing around us have convinced the nation that we are at odds with each other, divided by hate. These forces seek to tear the nation apart and lead us into evil.
Yet, we do not have to succumb to the pressure of ideas that are not our own. Instead, we can rise above and listen to what we know is true—the word of God. As written in Proverbs, “Blessed is he who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands among sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”
We can overcome and walk through life free from the shackles of forces beyond our control. We are not forced to follow in the false words of unrighteous influencers.
God’s Wisdom Guides All
The message is clear—social influences can have a major effect on people’s lives, leading them astray and into extremist views that are not their own. Yet, by carefully considering the company we keep and following in God’s wisdom, we can live free of these influences and find a path to peace amidst the chaos.