Strong Man Model

General Musings

The strong-man behavioral model suggests a mild to extreme condition based on a self-centric world-view. The goal is to take a position as a social focal point. It is not so much about ruling, as it is about being honored and adored.

To be honored is to be followed and, in some cases, even obeyed. Heavenly Father's honor was the object of Lucifer's envy. He wanted honor without the requisite labor. Similarly, a strong-man may individualize doctrine or ordinances in an effort to be considered unique, with special knowledge, and be dutifully followed. Followers then offer adoration in return for such "insider" knowledge and special insights.

People who exhibit strong-man tendencies but do not recognize, and deftly mitigate them, can make a difficult situation in a fellowship. A Christlike attitude manifests deferrance to others, an attribute lacking to one degree or another, in a strong-man.

Of course, gender is not an issue. Strong-men exist in both. Honest analysis reveals various levels of strong-manism ranging between the mildly self-centric, to the full-blown tyrant, in both genders. Obvious examples abound in the political arena, for instance.

One of the characteristics of the strong-man model can be a tendency to interrupt. If your world view insists that you are the center of it, you will always be at the ready to correct supposed errors in other's conversation. You think to save the world from such errors. You are on a quest to bring the world under your superior understanding.

As a recognized but reformed strong-man, my view of their tactics is intimate. When I hear a strong-man interruption, my tendency is to respond with a stronger one. If you interrupt, don't be surprised when you're interrupted. Conversational interruption is a joust. Do you really expect to joust and not be jousted back? Why would you be offended at a process you initiated? Only a tyrant would be so ignorant of that possibility. You'll hear, "Oh, I wasn't interrupting, I was just  changing the subject." 

To a non-strong-man, that begs the question: why was the authority to unilaterally change the subject, "supposed" in the first place. A prudent conversationalist would have posed the question, "Shall we change the subject?" And consensus would have ruled the day. The strong-man then forfeits the supposed adoration from saving the conversation, by solely changing the subject.

This, of course, is a minor transgression examined under a microscope. Bumps look like mountains. The point, nonetheless, stands.

On the other hand, some like strong-men. In most any social group, a strong-man will have no difficulty finding followers. These codependent relationships can be deeply emotional. A follower might assume a protective role, overlooking social transgressions and ensuring the strong-man has the floor. It is the cult of personality. 

Followers can also gather around a strong-man candidate in an attempted luring to the role. If the role is rejected, the follower, who may also be a budding candidate looking for a strong-man mentor, feels rejected and offended. It is for certain that interpersonal engagement can get very complicated with its attendant emotions.

A strong-man is often one per group. However, groups may also have several, less ambitious strong-men who seek only part-time influence. This is where the interrupter is typically found.

These mini-strong-men float along until they sense an opening. For example, if they tire of a conversational topic, but fear group enthusiasm, they will deftly interrupt another's comment with a tangential issue meant to hijack the conversation, and change the subject. 

When a conversation skips through topics quickly, never having time to fully analyze any of them, you may have more than one of these mini-strong-men in the group. Another possibility, of course, is simply a group of shallow thinkers. Considering the state of education for the past three or four decades, it is entirely possible that a group is comprised of both mini-strong-men and shallow thinkers.

This condition may be untenable to the naturally inquisitive and analytical. Such may rather not be involved than suffer in an environment of banal satisfaction with shallow thought and focus. The Lord had something to say about that: "Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible." (RE 2Ne 12:9; LDS 2Ne 29:6) Or, perhaps this:

"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth, because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." (RE Rev 1:19; LDS Rev 3:15-17)

The subject here is not physical goods, but spiritual. If all considered themselves as spiritually "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked," there would be far fewer strong-men in our midst. The Heavenly Gift might have a fighting chance of being welcomed among such. 

In a Zion environment, chief seats, if there are a remnant of those still around, remain empty while the back row is filled with those eager to work diligently, with all rationality and intelligence, for spiritual increase and more closeness with Christ. Mortal recognition is neither required nor desired.

Emotion is often a nice by-product of spiritual contact. However, importance lies in the true knowledge, or intelligence gained. Emotions can be easily manipulated by thought, movie, or song. Ask any advertising agency how effective, profitable, and common, professional emotion manipulation has become. We are inundated by it. Our emotions are worn from the constant barrage. A perfect Satanic breeding ground. No, I really don't trust emotion anymore. Intelligence, or the Glory of God, is pure cake. Emotion makes a nice frosting but has no bearing on the truth of the matter.

An environment where devotion to the group is frequently expressed, (frosting), rather than gratitude for that which is learned, (cake), is ripe for toxic strong-man influence. Group devotion can easily slide into strong-man devotion.

This has played out well in the modern LDS society where testimonies of the institution and its leadership are prolific. This constant repetition foments emotional conditioning, supplanting, even devotion to God, as the greatest commandment. 

Our purpose here is not to condemn, but to humbly warn. The Zion I envision has no interrupters in it if there is to be a complete lack of contention and disputation. The people of 4th Nephi thought they had these societal difficulties  conquered but, after a time, realized they had been wrong because they subsequently arrived at an even more refined level of interaction. "Okay," they must have said, "we've got this now." Nope. And they repeated the process again by arriving at an even more refined state.

I wonder where we are now on that continuum? How many times must we relearn the same lessons? Having your cake in your hand is not possible, if you've eaten the cake. We continue to hold fast to our crass quibbles, contentions, disputations, and interruptions, all the while giving ourselves praise for our supposed godliness. Our spiritually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked selves playact that the meager starlight in which we bask is really the sun at noonday.

The last childhood, and childish, notion to be lost as we mature, is the idea that the world revolves around me. I am the important one. Where I am, is the center of attention.

As we emotionally and spiritually mature, Christ becomes our center of attention. He, then guides us through our mortal path. The strong-man model becomes abhorrent as we are able to see the true Son at noonday. Our sorry selves take their more accurate place as figurative five-year-olds trying to contribute in a physics lab. Humility, happily, begins to rule the day.

In an effort to contribute something constructive to this effort, I list here some suggestions. These constitute my personal Anti-Strong-Man creed.

Anti-Strong-Man Creed

1. I wait, in the crowd, to be called up to serve. 
2. I am slow to speak, and I listen, with patience, seeking true knowledge by the Spirit, in all that others say.
3. I do not interrupt another's comment.
4. I gratefully seek the influence of the Spirit in my comments and observations. 
5. I am grateful for every opportunity to quietly serve.
6. I seek no personal aggrandizement from my association with fellow believers.
7. I seek an environment of people dealing justly, one with another, and pledge to be such.
8. I seek influence "only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness and pure knowledge..." (T&C 139:5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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