Others influencing me

I am amazed at how often my words, thoughts, or actions are influenced by those around me. 

In the 1960’and 1970’s Bandura researched how much of kid’s (and later adult’s) behavior, thoughts and attitudes was influenced by the social context in which they found themselves.  His research was very convincing, and I believed it, however I am not sure I thought about it much since.  This is partially because I believe that much or our behavior, thoughts and attitudes are influenced by our unique traits. Yet, social psychology does explain a lot of what we see in ourselves as well as in others.

This research came to mind as I realized how different my driving is here in the South Carolina upstate than it was in the city of Orlando. In Orlando there are a lot of aggressive drivers. Many are from New York or countries where that is the norm. Therefore, the aggressive driving culture is to get to your destination as quickly as possible.  This is the social milieu or the social context which permeates much of the driving where we lived in Orlando.  In this context I adapted to that style of driving and even found myself becoming very upset at drivers. This is surely a factor in road rage.

Yet, here, the culture is different, and my driving is different. The social milieu is more laid back.  When I am trying to “cut in” a line of traffic that is waiting at the light, people gladly let you into the line traffic in front of them.  When they don’t have to!  They are just kinder and more gracious towards each other. It seems they aren’t in such a hurry, so they are more sensitive to other’s needs. Here is the interesting thing, I have noticed that I do am much more prone to allow cars to pull out in front of me now, or give people grace when they do something wrong. I drive slower!

I see people not as driven by time pressures.  Even the squirrels seem to be more laid back!  One just came up to within 24 inches of me sitting here on the back porch.  He had a nut in his mouth to bury and was looking for an appropriate place to put it.  There just seems to be less pressure, hurry, stress, and competition here. 

And that has impacted the way I drive, and I also think it will impact other areas of my life.  I can relax more and not feel the urgency to produce.  When a neighbor in Orlando told me that I could slow in Orlando as much as in South Carolina, I don’t think he understood this concept. He didn’t understand how the social environment around him was influencing him because he was immersed in the culture. I felt like I needed a change in the social context to help me change.

I met a young guy from New Jersey at the local coffee shop here and he said he moved here for the same reason. He said he works from home and wanted to slow down and get out of the “rat race” culture of Jersey.  He said his biggest frustration here is with those who are trying to bring their culture here, rather than learning to adopt this culture. 

Biblically, I find it interesting that God called Abraham out of Harran (Genesis 12) to create a people who enjoyed living in relationship with him and a culture which would be an example for the rest of the world. There were some things that God wanted to rewire in Abe (and his ensuing family, tribe, and nation) which God knew would best be accomplished in a different land.  In Hebrews 11.15 we are told that if Abraham would have looked back and focused on the land from which he had come, he would have had an opportunity to return. God intentionally chose to take Abe and his family to a totally different place to create a group of people and culture dedicated to living with him. 

God seems to do this often; he calls people to a different physical place to develop a change within their spiritual space. I wonder if this social psychology isn’t at least some of the reason for this?  






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