About Me

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Jim Killebrew has 40 years of clinical psychological work for people with intellectual disabilities, and experience teaching, administration, consulting, writing with multiple publications. Dr. Killebrew has attended four Universities and received advanced degrees. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D., Educational Psychology; University of Illinois at Springfield, Counseling Education; M.A., Human Development Counseling; Northeastern Oklahoma State University, B.A., Psychology and Sociology. Dr. Killebrew attended Lincoln Christian Seminary (Now Lincoln Christian University). Writing contributions have been accepted and published in several journals: Hospital & Community Psychiatry, The Lookout, and Christian Standard (multiple articles). He may be reached at Killebrewjb@aol.com.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Transformation or conformity



The other day a news report stated that people have been shown to be desensitized to the reality shows on television.  As each individual or "team" tries to outdo their opponents to "win" the prize, they use whatever means necessary to best the others.  Sometimes that even takes the form of dishonest dealings with each other, deception, lying or cutting corners in order to win.  That report showed that people who watch those reality programs often have become desensitized to the bickering and the arguing and other things that are happening in those programs and it has become the new normal.  Without even realizing it, the people watching the "reality" shows actually begin to adopt the methods and outcomes they have seen on those shows into their personal lives.

 

It is not surprising that Christians often times get caught up in these programs as well.  People who watch often identify with a favorite person or team and become emotionally involved by rooting for them to perform better so they can win over the others.  We read in Romans 12 that we should not be conformed to the world order of things; instead, we should be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

 

"Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God – which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect."  (Romans 12:1-2)

 

The word "conformed" in verse 2 in the original language (suschmatizesqe) can be either a passive or middle voice, but is likely passive since it did not directly indicate specific persons, ("conform yourselves").  Viewing the process of being conformed as a passive notion implies it is a process that may be in part, subconscious.  However, it also carries the implication of a "permissive passive" that suggests it is not entirely subconscious, but at the same time a realization of some consciousness from the individual that the conformity is taking place as the person engages in the act of doing or watching.  So it can be taken as a combination of both ideas  

 

The words in the text "test and approve" is a verb (dokimazw) that indicates we should test what we are seeing or doing and look for the positive outcome, especially as related to what is pleasing to God.  Not only are we to "test" what we watch or do, but we should "approve" of it with the same mind as God would likely use to "approve" of the specific behavior.  So we are to "test so as to approve." 

 

A social psychologist named, Charles Cooley defined what he called the "Looking glass self" he first used in a book entitled, "Human Nature and the Social Order," 1902.  He described consistent observations of persons acting or behaving in ways they thought others' had perceived them.  The person's "self" was formed and developed through interpersonal relationships and from the perceptions of others.  His "looking glass self" was the formation of a personal conforming to what persons thought others' were thinking about them.  People are so willing to have others' thinking good things about them, they will change their behavior to please their friends thereby "conforming" to the expectations of those whom they value.

 

Think of a group of teen-agers who see the "stars" setting the trends.  A recent example is the behavior of Miley Cyrus who developed a character of "Hanna Montana" but has more recently tried to transform herself into seemingly an adult soft-porn star.  Her more wholesome persona as Hanna were copied by millions of young girls who wanted to be just like her.  The process of "conforming" usually happens when most of a young girl's friends try to emulate the behavior of the stars, but the girl who resists is brought into conformity by the interpersonal relationships experienced by the person perception of what the other girls think about her when she doesn't morph into another "Hanna."

 

Of course Cooley may have identified this phenomenon through observation and labeling the "looking glass self," but the Apostle Paul recognized it almost two thousand years ago noting that as we interact with others forming interpersonal relationships and watching the world go by, we are always in danger of conforming our "self" with those around us as we try to please them and keep them as our friend.

 

Paul, having recognized that phenomenon wrote that Christians, with the help of the power of the Holy Spirit, should "transform" their "selves" and "renew" their minds by testing those things around us happening in the world, and approve their "self-concept" with consistency to God's will.  This results in living a life that is "good, well-pleasing and perfect."

 
Jim Killebrew