From the very earliest accounts of human history, our species has always been tribal, and the result of this tribal mentality has been a never ending litany of misery. Tribal thinking is “them or us” thinking which is precisely why we are such a cantankerous race. The tragedy of this mentality is that it is so completely false. There is no “them”, there is only “us”. If we, as a species, were ever to truly internalize that, it would change everything.
Tribal mentality can be beneficial when dealing with our own tribe, our “us”. After all, most people will go to great lengths to tolerate, befriend, and help those we think of as “us”. But this same mentality can be disastrous when dealing with tribal outsiders, our “them”. It is very easy to persecute, shun, and impede those we think of as “them”. After all, they aren’t “good folks like us”. No, they are “them”.
Tribal thinking can be very convenient. I don’t have to care about what happens to “them”. “They” aren’t “our own”. Besides, “charity begins at home”, right? It’s so convenient not to have to be bothered with the needs of “them”.
And, of course, tribal thinking is at the core of the whole concept of nations. So much so, that it’s safe to say that nationhood is the physical manifestation of tribalism. And then we wonder why we have so much war. Really? This is a system set up according to concepts that practically guarantee war, since it is a system inherently designed to define who is “us” and who is “them”.
Let’s not fool ourselves, though. Tribal thinking isn’t just about nations or actual “clans”. It’s about all human relations. It’s ubiquitous. “They” can be found in many guises.
“They” can be “illegals” who “should be sent back to their own country” or worse. “They” can be “sinners” who should be punished for not being “good folks like us”. And when bad things happen to “them”, we can relish their “punishment” with smug delight since “they are only gettin’ what’s comin’ to ’em”. “They” can be “tea sippers”, or “tea partiers” or “commies” or “fags” or “rag heads” or “niggers” or “bitches” or “Frogs” or “wet backs” or “Muslims” or “Christians” or “Jews” or “Mormons” or “WASPS” or “Ho’s” or “morons” or “weirdos” or “rich” or “poor” or “conservative” or “liberal” or…
Yeshua warned us about judging. He implored us to “love one another” and to even “love your enemy”. And when he suffered and died, he didn’t do it for just the tribe of Judah. No, he did it for every single one of “us”. He only knew “us”. No “them”.
For God so loved the WORLD…
Get it? The WORLD. Us. ALL OF US.
I’ve come to understand that one of the earmarks of “sin” is the belief in “them or us”; the denial of the universal “us”.
Why oh why do we continue to do this to ourselves? Why do we cast about trying to blame all the wrong things for our misery. It’s not the guns, or the drugs, or alcohol, or TV or video games, or anything else. Those are just things. The problem comes from within. It is the way we THINK. It is what is in our hearts and minds. “There is nothing outside of a man that enters into him that can defile him, but the thing that proceeds from him, that is what defiles the man.” [Mark 7:15].
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. [Proverbs 23:7]
I quote scripture here, but isn’t that really overkill. Isn’t it self evident? The way we think is who we are. The problem is that there is a distinct lack of thought given to exactly what it is we are thinking. We operate on autopilot most of the time: simply being, but not really analyzing our assumptions. We accept our tribal mindset and go blindly about our lives like so many busy worker bees. Too busy to be bothered with something so tedious as soul searching.
No, we’d rather sit watching the game, or reruns of “Friends”, or the latest episode of “Honey Boo Boo” to ever bother with examining what lives in our hearts and minds.
The ironic thing about this post is that the majority of people that read it and nod in agreement are the ones most likely to be caught up in the tribal mindset trap. In fact, if you have ever asked yourself the question, “What is wrong with these people? Can’t they see..”, then congratulations, you are tribal.
I will admit it straight up. I have fallen into the tribal trap on far more occasions, especially when driving in Houston, than I care to admit. I enjoy feeling superior. That’s part of the whole tribal experience. The thrill of being “in” looking down on those that are “out”. That makes me sad, that I am so insecure that I fall into the trap.
There is only one cure. Love. To break out of the tribal trap, you have to open your heart to Love. Note the capitol L. Love has to own you. You have to be so filled with Love, that you have no capacity to ever think of anyone, and I do mean anyone, as “them”. Only then will you, by the nature of what is in your heart, truly comprehend the universal “us”. Only then will you belong to the one single tribe called humanity.
And if you do manage to arrive at such a state, good for you. You will probably be in a very tiny minority. Odds are that the vast majority of folks will continue on down the tribal path, so your achievement is not likely to “change the world”, at least not in a grand universal sort of way. It will, however, change your world, in a very profound sort of way. And that, in the final analysis, is all you can hope for because your own world, the one that originates inside of you, is the only world over which you have any actually control.