Communities of believers that have become too rigid need people like you.
In the previous video, I encouraged you to keep believing in the things you believe in—even as you become more open-minded and humble about what you think you know, and less dependent and absolutely obedient to the belief systems on which you rely the most.
I encouraged you to change how you believe, not what you believe.
But just as importantly, I want to encourage you to stay in your communities.
Don’t stop hanging out with people who have similar political, philosophical, or religious beliefs, just because they’re more extreme and rigidly committed to them.
This is really, really important—one of the most important, practical things you can do to advance social change.
The reason it’s so important is because, as I explained in another previous video, when groups feel threatened, the first thing the leaders, elites, and diehard believers do is put pressure on the rank-and-file.
They throw down the gauntlet. They turn the threat into an absolute, us-versus-them challenge. They rant and rave and tell you you have to believe certain things, and you have to reject certain people, beliefs, and causes, in order to be a good conservative, liberal, Christian, or whatever.
They try to swell the numbers of diehard, totally committed believers by forcing the masses of more open-minded, less committed believers to make a choice: either get with the program, or get out of the group.
The temptation, when you’re in a group that’s pressuring you like that, is to leave. I mean, why stay if they make it clear you aren’t welcome anymore?
But that’s precisely the wrong thing to do!
The reason ideologies tend to become more extreme over time is because they regularly purge themselves of all their moderate, accommodating, level-headed members—leaving behind only the diehard extremists.
Once you leave the group, you’ve lost the opportunity to influence the group for the better. Now you’re one of “them.” Now you’re the enemy.
But if you stay in the group, dig in your heels, and say, “Hey, who are you to define what it means to be a good believer? Who are you to decide who gets to be included? I’m a believer too. I deserve a voice, too. There are many of us more moderate believers—and we aren’t going to let you push us out,” then you have an opportunity to change the group from the inside. Then you can move your community in a more tolerant, collaborative direction.
Communities of believers that have become too rigid and uncompromising need people like you. They need you to show them how to believe—that it’s possible to be a strong believer while still admitting limitations, and acknowledging the value of other belief systems.
Communities of believers that have become too rigid and uncompromising can’t be changed from the outside. Then it becomes an us-versus-them thing. Then there’s no face-saving way to back down.
They can only be changed from the inside, as they confront how out of step they are, as the more reasonable people model for them how to believe without being so stubborn, and refuse to let the extremists totally run the show.
So don’t let the ideologues push you out!
Stay in your groups, and steer them in the right direction, to the best of your ability.
This is the 123rd in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.