Learning from Lemmings

Why Not Following the Crowd Comes From a Values Decision

Case Study in Values- Why are values so important?  Have you ever heard of a Lemming?  You know those short-tailed, thickset rodents found in the Arctic tundra?  There is such mystery surrounding these unsavvy creatures.  No one could understand why Lemming population fluctuated dramatically, from massive herds to near extinction.   ABC News in 2004 reported and some popular opinions:

“In the 1530s, the geographer Zeigler of Strasbourg, tried to explain these variations in populations by saying that lemmings fell out of the sky in stormy weather, and then suffered mass extinctions with the sprouting of the grasses of spring. Back in the 19th century, the Naturalist Edward Nelson wrote that ‘the Norton Sound Eskimo have an odd superstition that the White Lemming lives in the land beyond the stars and that it sometimes comes down to the earth, descending in a spiral course during snow-storms.'”

These were before some of more modern mythical understandings that lean more towards mass suicides as thousands follow one Lemming over a cliff to their death.  If one is described as a Lemming then they are considered a person who unthinkingly joins a mass movement, especially a head long rush to destruction.


Standing Out may mean you are Standing Alone

I learned from a really young age what it means to stand out or up for your values.  I went to a high school in Raleigh, NC.  The school had great spirit and a great many students.  We laughed out how many trailers the school had.  I think it was in the 30’s.  It was mostly an anglo school whose athletic programs were second to none.  Having been raised to compete, I had the privilege to play Football, Basketball, and Baseball all throughout high school.  Me and another guy were the only ones in this high school.

Through the work of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), I became aware of my need to have my sins forgiven and that receiving the gift of eternal life offered to man through the words and works of Jesus, I trusted in His work and received His gift.  I was instantly changed.  I changed both spiritually and socially.  Although I was among the few in the school who participated in varsity athletics, I was rather shy.  One of the breakthroughs that occurred in my young life was replacing my insecurity with confidence in the Lord.  Previously my confidence only came from competing and winning.  Spiritually I understood I had nothing to prove with the Lord and therefore nothing to lose.  My relationship was secure.  A huge confidence booster.  Socially, I began to share my new found relationship with my friends.  My bible study leader said it should be a value of every Christian, to share their faith and not be ashamed of knowing Jesus.  I made a promise with the Lord that if He would take my shyness away, then I would speak up and keep Him center.

I learned early that few people make it a real value to verbally communicate the importance of their relationship with the Lord but I still refused to follow the Christian crowd of staying silent.  However, that is not the lemming sighting.  That came during the Spring semester at a baseball practice.  Just prior to practice as we were warming up our arms and legs for practice a few of the guys asked me a very pointed question.  They knew I was in a dating relationship with a young lady.  Perhaps it was assumed (because everyone was doing it), but they asked, “Have you gone all the way with your girlfriend?”  I remember it like it was yesterday. For some reason, I was not embarrassed and to the best of my recollection I did not even hesitate.  I simply said, “No!”  I did not stop there.  No I remember saying, “Truth is, I can become like you anytime I want, but you can never become like me again, if you have sex with your girlfriend.”  That is the power of values.  Values have a way of empowering you at the point of greatest need.


Have you gone through the values exercise?  Was it easy?  Did you learn anything about yourself?  About your spouse?  About your relationship?

My suggestion is to take some extended time thinking through the exercise on the previous post.  If you are working through this with your spouse, I call it knee-to-knee time, then give yourself some time.  Set a goal, a good month, where you both talk off and on at times.  You will be glad you did.

The next set of posts in Designing Purpose deals with Designing a Mission Statement.  Not just any old mission but one that is based on your roles.

Lead Pastor 290 Community Church

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