Conformity

102 QUESTION: In today’s Post, Harry Golden wrote something to the effect that conformity is not living in a house similar to your neighbor’s, but rather living in that house in order to impress your neighbor, or to make your neighbor like you. I think this is probably an adequate explanation of conformity. Now, I would like to know to what extent do mature people conform with the society in which they live?

ANSWER: If we use the word “conforming” in the sense in which it is usually used, that of living up to other people’s expectations, either out of a need to impress, or out of fear of rejection, mature people will not conform at all. But that does not mean that they rebel. Nor does it mean that they do everything differently from others.

They may do certain things in the same way as their neighbors, but only because they freely choose to do so. Just because they are free does not mean they have to make a show of not conforming. Conformists often find it necessary to rebel and do the very opposite of what they want to do, merely to show that they are different.

This is the other side of the coin and stems from the same root as the behavior of those persons who cannot make an independent choice because they cannot risk being different. The outer manifestation does not show whether or not a person conforms. This is determined by the inner spirit – the motive.

People living like those around them may do so out of insecurity, needing to conform, or out of the freedom to choose this way of life independently, because they like it. When people do everything differently out of rebellion, their underlying need to conform is exposed.

They rebel against the need and insecurity in themselves, rather than against society. Such rebellion is not free. It often makes people do the very opposite of what they really want to do. But it is also possible that those who have the courage to be different, do so with a free spirit.

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