I heard an illustration when I was a kid about a marching band member who insisted he was going the right direction while everyone else was going the wrong direction. Let’s pretend for the sake of this illustration that we could go behind the scenes in a “flashback” type moment to see what happened to lead up to this kid (named Cosby for this illustration) being out of step with the rest of the group. The scene finds Cosby out of step with the group while he knew the routine as good or better than anyone else in the band. He and the other band members had trained for years and knew it so well they could do it their sleep. Then one day Cosby got some new information and realized that the group was in fact wrong according to the national standard set for that particular routine. This national standard had been in place for years and virtually everyone in the country associated with bands knew this particular standard for that routine. Cosby now understood the new standard and he began to try to tell everyone in the marching band about it but nobody would listen. The band director and everyone else in the band (as well as parents and relatives in the area) insisted they were correct so they continued with the same routine. Now fast forward to the actual big event itself where we see Cosby going one direction and the rest of the band going another. People in the area are furious and so are both the band director and band members. Cosby goes back to school and is ostracized from everyone and told that he completely messed up any chance they had of going to the national competition. Three weeks later a member from the national organization shows up and everyone expected him to not only reject them but to make some comments about the boy who was completely going the wrong direction. The person from the national organization then tells the school they have been invited to the national competition because of the courage and bravery of the boy that did the correct pattern and was willing to go “against the grain.” The band member and everyone else were so thankful they had been invited to the national competition that they put Cosby in charge of leading the rest of the band to learn the routine according to the national standard.
The analogy does break down if pushed into different directions but does a good job of bringing some very important things to light. Does the group always determine the definition of right or does the individual? What happens when there are too many definitions of “right” and they are in conflict with each other. The interesting thing to me about the saying “against the grain” is that you first have to see the grain and then you have to determine which way the grain is aligned to be able to make a conscious decision to go with it or against it. Most people don’t observe the grain at all, they simply feel resistance and turn the direction that creates the least amount of pain and hardship or just go with whatever they are surrounded by in their own personal subculture. Once a person does observe the grain and makes the decision to go against it they must be prepared properly for the journey they are starting.
For my family I want to bring about the ability to go against the grain when needed. Every family wanting the ability to do this will a bit of rebellion to be successful. They will need to be able to determine the “grain” and then have the courage/determination/etc to turn into the grain and make progress against it. If the grain/current is really strong it will take an amazing amount of hard work and courage to actually create “against the grain” type movement. People and families that choose to go against the grain stand out, so you certainly have to know that it’s worth the fight. There are so many illustrations to bring this point home I don’t know where to start. However, let’s take a very simple example like game exposure. If every family that your children know has a PS2 or PS3 but you are trying to limit game exposure for some reason then you will have to be ready to go “against the grain” in making this decision. Going against the grain as a family will model the type of character to our kids that will help them have the strength and determination to fight against the grain when they need to….whatever the situation may be.
Encouragement: Challenge yourself to do something good “against the grain” as a family. Communicate with the rest of your family the types of issues facing your family and determine if there is a healthy “grain” or if he needs walk “against the grain” with certain issues.