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The Trap of “Group-Think”

1 Kings 21:7,8 But Jehoshaphat said, “Doesn’t the LORD have another prophet here? Let’s ask him the same question.” King Ahab answered, “Yes, there is another prophet. His name is Micaiah son of Imlah. But I hate him because he will not say anything good about me when he speaks for the LORD. He always says things that I don’t like.” Jehoshaphat said, “The king should not say that!”

One way to maintain harmony, is to tell people what we think they want to hear. The problem with that, is that what they want to hear, isn’t always the truth. What they want to hear, isn’t always the best thing for them.

And that desire to tell people what they want to hear, is something that leads to what I call “group-think”. People get together in their little mutual admiration huddle, feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves, and end up heading off in the wrong direction.

There was a time when a couple of Kings, Ahab and Jehoshaphat, had to decide whether or not to go to battle against the Aramites. But Jehoshaphat thought it best first, to seek God’s advice.

The way they did that back then, was to ask the prophets. There were about four hundred of them, and they all said yeah, yeah, go to battle.

1 Kings 22:7,8 But Jehoshaphat said, “Doesn’t the LORD have another prophet here? Let’s ask him the same question.” King Ahab answered, “Yes, there is another prophet. His name is Micaiah son of Imlah. But I hate him because he will not say anything good about me when he speaks for the LORD. He always says things that I don’t like.” Jehoshaphat said, “The king should not say that!”

Jehoshaphat was right. Had Ahab listened to Micaiah that day, he wouldn’t have died in battle. A friend of mine, Peter Sewell, puts it like this:

Unfortunately, groups that cultivate conformity, lose their effectiveness. Decision making suffers because the groups’ social behaviour hinders the proper evaluation of ideas.

Call it group-think, call it conformity bias, the failure to listen to, and take onboard dissenting opinions, can lead us into serious trouble. Have the courage to listen to people who’ll tell you the things that you don’t want to hear.

That’s God’s Word. Fresh … for you … today.

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