It Was An Old, Old Article......
Peg and I were newly married, and I had picked up a copy of Reader's Digest Magazine, and I read a particular article in it that really struck me as important .. almost as if it had been written for me.
It would help to understand its effect if you grasp the fact that I am, by nature, shy. I have .. and have had, since my youth, what an Industrial Psychologist referred to as a "Fat Boy Complex". An insurer I'd worked for in the early 1960's had sent me there, figuring I might be management material, and this guy put me through a battery of tests, including one of more than 1,000 questions. He had to send it off to Cincinnati to get it interpreted.
When I went back for the follow-up session, in which he pronounced me as fit, he told me my primary personality traits were that I was (A) Shy, (B) High -strung, and (C) Insecure. He also mentioned a poor self-image, and always feeling like I was "on the outside looking in".
He didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. Inside.
Back to the Reader's Digest article: the premise of the article was a report on an experiment in New York in which they gave ordinary people a chance to share anonymously their fears, secrets, hang-ups, whatever they wanted to share that bothered them. They'd do this by going into a soundproof booth, with headset and microphone, and taking part in a group discussion, with no one but the group members listening.
They'd go to an anonymous-looking office, see a lady at the desk & get a number, go to that booth, share their fears, etc., and then fill out a form after the session. Then, they'd leave by the back door. The whole idea was to find out of sharing would help people realize they weren't so different from others, etc, and that we're all sort of in the same boat. There were to be different sizes of groups, from two people to ten people. They were told what size their group was to be.
In practice, the first man to share always started by telling he was an ex-accountant who'd gotten addicted to gambling. He had embezzled some money and had gotten caught, narrowly escaping prison by promising to repay what he'd stolen. He'd done that, but the stress had precipitated a heart attack. His doctor told him that, if he ever had another, he'd be dead before he hit the floor.
He went on to say he had eventually gotten a job, become modestly successful, but had gotten into gambling again, stolen from his employer again, the auditors were coming next week, and he was having chest pains. The longer he talked, the louder he got, until he started screaming he was having a heart attack.
Then, silence. Dead silence.
Now for the kicker: There was only ever one subject in the experiment. One guy in a booth, listening to Subject #1 .. who was a recording, by the way. The entire objective of the experiment was to see what the guy in the booth did when he heard .. or at least thought he heard .. Subject #1 was having a heart attack.
Here's what they found (as best as I can recall from this many years'....):
- When the Subject thinks he's part of a Group of two .. him & Subject #1, he always comes busting out of the booth, yelling at the lady at the desk to get the other guy some help.
- When the Subject thinks he's part of a Group of three .. him, Subject #1, and somebody else, he comes out of the booth one out of four times!
- When the Subject thinks he's part of a Group of five of more, he never comes out of the booth!
The bigger the group, the smaller percentage will ever volunteer.
When I read this, I was just getting active in church. And when I read it, it was almost as if God said to me that, now that I knew this, I couldn't be the guy that sat there waiting for somebody else to second the motion. I could not fail to object to something a group wanted to do that wasn't right. I could not fail to speak up when something in error was being taught, or remain silent just because there was a crowd around.
When something must be said, knowing that most will not speak up .. especially as the crowd goes larger .. I know that I must speak, if I have any intentions of being an obedient servant.