Strippers, brain science and why some of your friends suck.
During college I briefly hung around with a bunch of bodybuilders. I know, clearly I’m huge now, but years ago I was not the colossus you see in the white t-shirt. I was skinny, nerdy and I’m not sure why they kept me around. Most nights when we went out I felt like that little guy that sits in the crew boat and yells out instructions to the athletes paddling.
The frustrating thing about going out with these guys was that the girls they always attracted at clubs would never have anything to do with me. I knew I wasn’t massive, but I still thought I was a mildly attractive person with at the bare minimum a B+ sense of humor. But weekend after weekend, strippers and a variety of other scantily clad girls at parties would gravitate toward my neckless friends and never say a word to me.
Eventually I grew tired of hanging around with these dinosaurs of men, but that experience taught me a lesson about friends. It wasn’t that I was a complete loser, it was just that my priorities were different than these girls. My sense of what was important didn’t line up with theirs. The best thing about me wasn’t visible to them on the outside. It was hidden deep inside and that meant it would never be seen by people that put so much emphasize on the surface of life. (I should note that not all bodybuilders think that way. I'm sure a lot of bodybuilders are deep and Christian and a lot of other words that will hopefully encourage you not to beat me up. And Heather Veitch is doing some awesome work for the Lord with strippers.)
I think I learned that you attract what you put out. You get back what you give, and since I was not giving out that “the body matters above all else,” I never got the time of day from these girls. The danger in that idea though is that if you hang around long enough with someone you start to rewire your priorities. You start to become like them.
Parents and guidance counselors have long said things like “the company you keep defines who you are” but something I read recently changed the way I looked at the idea. In the book, “Emotionomics,” Dan Hill introduced the concept of “mirror neurons.” According to him and a host of scientists, mirror neurons are “so named because they fire when performing an action or when watching that same action being performed. Mirror neurons help us learn by mimicking others.”
The scary thing is that it happens without us knowing and that it happens faster than the rational part of our brain can compute. As Hill writes, “the slower, thinking system is dominated by the faster, intuitive feeling system.”
Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever repeated the way a friend felt or started doing something that felt totally foreign but in the company of friends it made all the sense of the world? Have you ever done something and then thought, “That made no sense, why did I do that?” Maybe that’s just a fancier description of peer pressure, but the concept that how your friends act can have a neural impact on your brain is a little scary.
I’m not a scientist, I don’t even play one on TV, but I do encourage you to think seriously about the company you keep. There’s more at stake than just picking up a bad habit or two.
p.s. Check out www.97secondswithgod.com for a fresh look at the Bible and a new post.
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