It’s always exciting when you are about to embark on a new project – there is the anticipation of great times ahead tempered with the apprehension of what might go wrong.
I think I may have mentioned that my eldest granddaughter is embarking on a new chapter in her education. She will be moving up to an all-girls’ school come the new term and has been sorting through all her new books; among them is a bright and shiny new ‘Youth Bible’.
I idly picked it up to browse through (one of the very few accolades I gathered when at school myself was a prize for ‘Bible Studies). I have to confess that I am not a fan of the new and ‘up-to-date’ versions, being raised with the magnificence of the King James one. However the parables are still the same and I quickly came upon one of the most well known.
Mathew tells us that when the Son of Man comes in all his glory he will gather the nations of the earth before him “and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” He will then gather all the sheep and place them on his right hand (the place of honour), and put the goats on his left (the sinister side) -Mathew 25 v31-33
Being a sheep was a ‘good thing’ while being classified as a goat was obviously not.
I had read this bit many times before but it was only now that the oddity struck me. I suppose the analogy worked in days gone by with the dependency on the herds of sheep and goats; but it takes on a somewhat differing aspect in today’s society.
How many times have you heard a group of people disparagingly described as being like sheep? “Can’t they think for themselves – they’re just like a mob of sheep.” It is often stated that sheep are the most stupid animals on earth, milling around and waiting for someone to tell them what to do. So it doesn’t actually look good for the sheep.
I have never kept sheep, but from some of my friends who have, it appears that the ‘stupid’ tag is often well earned. But I have kept goats, and on that subject I have decided opinions.
I used to hand milk twelve goats during our self-sufficiency days, and they are the most provoking, intelligent, opinionated, inquisitive, individualist and delightful creatures. They are most definitely not sheepish but – thanks to Mathew – they have long been associated with the ‘darkside.’
But what would you like to be described as – sheepish or goatish!! Hmmm – difficult question.
Do we go along with the conformity of maturity and accept the ‘sheep’ tag; or do we maintain the rebelliousness of youth and opt for being ‘goats’?
I am afraid that I have some very bad news for those rebellious youths!
As teenagers we are largely sheepish – we long to be accepted by the group, and are therefore determined conformists. This will probably appall the teenagers, but I am afraid it is true. Having the courage to appear among the throng (the sheep) as a goat (an individualist) is a rare thing. And we communicate our acceptance of the group’s norms by adopting the dress, the language, the habitats and the standards that they approve. In short we conform to their requirements or we are not accepted and that is disastrous!
So our rebellious teenagers are not really rebels at all, they are strict conformists. The real rebels are the ones who decide to be different. There are very few teenagers who would willingly take a different stance to that of their ‘in-crowd’.
It is only with maturity that we have the self-confidence and courage to become the individual, the unique and special ‘goat’. I say courage because throughout history conformity has been the preferred option – which is why they find themselves as sheep on the right hand; the good side, the rewarded lot. While the true unique and individual person is consigned to the left hand, the sinister side where they face the penalty of their rebellion. So it takes courage to choose to be a goat!
How does that sit with the so-called cult of individuality and the doctrine of personal rights?
Not well really – but with a need to survive in society perhaps conformity is the easiest option. It is, as always our choice.
Separating sheep from goats is easy – you can pick the sheep from the goats simply by watching them – how do they dress, where do they hang out, what are the rules for their group? If they conform, they are sheep.
It doesn’t matter whether you are Goth or West Coast – if you adopt the standards of your group and conform you are classed with the sheep.
But if you value individuality, personality and charisma then you join me on the side of the goats.
It really is that simple.
Michele @ Trischel