To what degree, I wonder, are our desires shaped by other people’s desires? How many things do we need because other people have them? How have our tastes been shaped or even reshaped by the tastes of others? People eat things, drink things, and smoke things their taste buds once told them were disgusting because other people, who seemed to be in the know, did.
Have you ever watched the birds in autumn all take off – hundreds of them – at the same time and in the same flight path? Scientists say they are so attuned to each other’s movements that their acts are governed by the flock. People are like that too.
In a study conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds, groups of people were instructed to walk aimlessly around a large hall, without conversing with one another. However, the researchers secretly gave a small number of people precise instructions on where they should walk. The result: no matter how large or small the group, it wasn’t long before everyone was following the path of the handful of people who seemed to be in the know.
One researcher put it this way: “The research suggests that humans flock like sheep and birds, subconsciously following a minority of individuals.” They discovered it takes only 5 percent of “informed individuals” to influence the direction of a crowd of up to two hundred people. The rest follow along without any idea that they are being influenced.
We need to be careful or our natural human desire to be like everyone else does will prevent us from being ourselves! God never intended for his people to be like everyone else, to desire what they desire, and do what they do. He intends for them to be influencers, not merely influenced.
It is worth pausing to consider whether our desires are manufactured by the people around us. God promises to give us the desires of our heart not the desires of other people’s heart. Since our desires clear the path to our future, this is tremendously important. Our desires will only lead us into our best future when we are delighting ourselves in the Lord (Ps. 37:4). If we are not delighting ourselves in the Lord, it will be culture, not God, that gives us the desires of our hearts.
(Excerpted from the sermon, We Want What We Want It and We Want it Right Now. The entire sermon will be available for viewing later this week.)
 Martin Lindstrom, Brandwashed (Crown Business, 2011), p. 104-108