Chameleon People

Is there anything virtuous about changing who you are to accommodate the people around you? That was the subject of a recent discussion over dinner. The answer to this question needs some explaining.

Throughout all of my life I’ve been around people that I thought I knew. When I would hang out with these people they would be fine, but when we would hang out with other people they would change. It seems that in most cases they were desiring acceptance, wanting the group of people that they chose to hang out with to like them. This particular example happened on numerous occasions with numerous people, one minute I would be hanging out with a friend that I thought didn’t cuss, the next minute he/she was cussing like a sailor. It happens with a whole host of different situations, and it is normally called peer pressure.

There is another type of situation that can play out. Lets pretend you have a friend that smokes, normally, this person would be huffing and puffing away, but when this individual is around people that don‘t like smoking they don‘t smoke, they even go so far as to pretend that they don‘t like smoking. Is there anything good about that? This situation is still peer pressure. Its peer pressure that produces good values as opposed to the peer pressure that we all know, the one that produces bad values. Think about this, people are often times yelling and screaming about how you should not let peer pressure get to you. But should you? I would actually submit that you should let it get to you.

It really matters where exactly this peer pressure comes from. If you have a drinking problem its probably not a good idea to hang out with drinkers, but it’s a great idea to hang out with people that do not drink. Likewise, if you have a hard time with gluttony, its probably not a good idea to go with your friend to a buffet. But if your friend is going to a salad bar that is desirable. Often times those good attributes of our friends rub off on us just as easily as the bad ones.

What is to be said of that person that changes his/her ways depending upon who they are hanging out with. Are they disingenuous? In most cases, yes. Though there is another way to look at it, they are weak, as we all are in particular areas. Often times the word “weak” is used as a pejorative, but there are times when it should not. To be weak in an area is not necessarily the bad thing, its bad to be weak in an area and allow yourself to be influenced by that area. That is why it is often said that abstinence is a characteristic of the weak.

In fact I think it can be good to change your habits for someone else. Lets assume that you are hosting a dinner party for your friends. Now lets assume that you have a friend that is a recovering alcoholic, that is still very weak in that area, and if this person saw you drinking he/she might be inclined to do the same. In this situation I think it is a good idea to not serve alcohol at the party. You did nothing wrong, you actually helped your friend in his/her endeavor to not be an alcoholic, and I‘m sure your friends will understand, if they don’t that’s their loss.

It is definitely angering when you are friends with people that are more or less Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I think our first inclination is to be angry at the persons disingenuousness, I certainly know that that is my first inclination. But disingenuousness is not the problem, its lack of knowledge of ones self that is the problem. Disingenuousness can actually be a good thing. Is not a person that drinks a little bit, exercising temperance, just as “disingenuous” if they go against their inclination to drink more and get drunk. Or is it not “disingenuous” of a person to act a certain way, a better way, for the betterment of ones peers. In some peoples eyes yes, in others no. If it is disingenuous then it certainly cannot be bad all of the time. So that debunks the idea that one must be “real” all of the time. In fact I prefer a fake good person that is trying to make their life better than a “real” bad person who I don’t want to be around.

I strongly adhere to the belief that action comes before desire. So while a person might be inclined to cuss around certain people if one refrains one is likely to refrain more often, and actually, in time, develop a desire to not cuss. So while on the outset it might seem disingenuous to refrain from cussing, and in a way deny yourself or your peers some strange satisfaction, it becomes extremely genuine because your actions speak to who you want to be, and in that instance what you really are. Your actions might even change the minds of your peers. Contrary to what some might say progression often comes through chosen self restraint or temperance, rather than through a perversion of liberty. It is utterly wrong and evil when government restricts ones liberty, but it is largely virtuous when, through temperance, moderation and sometimes abstinence, one puts restrictions on ones self, becoming a slave to nothing but ones freedom.

When is it alright to be disappointed with this two faced person? It is largely dependant on that persons self knowledge. If your friend has the knowledge that he/she has a problem in a certain area yet they still hang around with people or watch and listen to stuff that affect them negatively or they are not trying to change at all, that calls for some disappointment. It is inevitable that a person will be influenced by their peers and by society as a whole, there is no way around that. But generally we all have a choice as to what we let into our lives. Some might ask, what then do you say of the person that grows up always influenced and persuaded to be a certain way? That does not in any way prevent that person from making a choice. Though it should be expected of a person to find it harder to change their attitude if they’ve been indoctrinated to live a particular way their whole life. In that case we should have patience with people that are trying to change themselves.

In every situation we have choices, even if we don’t know that a particular option exists, we still have a choice. For example, lets say that you are taking a multiple choice test. The test presents you with a question that has four options, but just because you can only see four options doesn’t mean that there aren’t a million other options, in this case there might only be one right answerer, but you do have a lot of wrong options that could be chosen. That is how life is, at times you might think you only have one choice or two choices, but you really have millions of choices. Think about it this way, say you have a job at a drug store. You have not enquired with other stores about a better job, you actually thought that wasn’t even an option. For all you know it very well might be an option, you have to find out, because again, knowledge that a certain choice does not exist does not prohibit someone from making a choice.

What does this all say about being someone that continually changes their attitude around different crowds? It says that you are not a product of society, even if you are heavily influenced by a certain part of society you are still your own person. That means you cannot blame society for your woes. You are not a victim of society.


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