Our tribe are those in our social group who share a common value system, tradition, and dialect. We all belong to numerous tribes based on our cultural, societal, religious, and business involvements. Tribes contribute powerfully to our individual identity, bonding us to those that are in some way similar. Our identity is also colored by our inner narrative, shaped by our experiences, upbringing, and introspection. When our identity is balanced between our internal portrait and external influences, tribes enrich our lives. However, if we outsource the majority of our identity to our tribes we run the risk of falling victim to manipulation and coercion.
Tribes give us community, defining what it means to be human, and contribute to our sense of purpose. These are our people, our teammates, those we lift and support and those that do the same for us. When the armed forces call themselves a brotherhood, a church a congregation, or Seattle Seahawk fans "The 12", they are acknowledging the strength in the citizenry of the tribe.
Within our closest, trusted circles, we confront facts directly, and develop beliefs that are in harmony with reality. Yet in some tribes expressive rationality takes hold, where our reasoning is driven by a desire to be valued by our tribe members rather than seeking accuracy. In these cases we may support a position we don't believe in, fearing that voicing opposition may exclude us from the tribe. We may fall victim to selective exposure, regulating and limiting information that contradicts our position. Motivated reasoning, dismissing or ignoring information before it can lead us to an undesired outcome, is a defensive mechanism that may shield us from the truth. When spelled out this way its hard to imagine we could fall victim to such obvious tactics. And yet ...
“Faced with a choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy with the proof.”
— J.K. Galbraith
Especially if changing one's mind jeopardizes our tribe memberships. The American author Upton Sinclair wrote "it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." We should amend this statement to include welfare, health, social standing, economic position, identity, or tribe membership.
Our identity is not a commodity to be traded or negotiated. It is core to how we see ourselves, our standing and stature, our self-worth. Seeking tribes where open-mindedness is valued, who seek constructive feedback, and where we can bring our authentic selves are the only tribes who deserve our membership.
The Paradox Pairs series is an exploration of the contradictory forces that surround us. A deeper study finds that these forces often complement each other if we can learn to tap into the strength of each. See the entire series by using the Paradox Pairs Index.