Recently, a bizarre incidence due east of Buffalo, New York, in the small town of Le Roy (birthplace of Jell-O, by the way) has caught national attention. Twelve girls in Le Roy Junior-Senior High have all developed an involuntary tic. It behaves similarly to Tourette’s Syndrome, a disorder that affects the nervous system leading to movements and vocalizations the patient cannot control–most commonly uncontrollable eye-blinking, throat clearing, and humming (cdc.gov). An environmental agency was brought in to test for chemical, biological, or environmental factors that might be causing this outbreak. They found nothing. The girls have all seen a neurologist from the University of Buffalo, and he, Dr. David Lichter, has diagnosed them with “conversion disorder,” also known as “mass hysteria.” Lichter also says that social media can cause this to spread, and young people with their own stress and anxiety can see a friend or someone they identify with suffering from a tic and develop their own. “Conversion Disorder” is a physical health problem that is rooted in an emotional or mental crisis. The students all know one another, and that has led those who have actually sat down with the girls to draw this conclusion.
If this is something these girls have “caught” from one another by observation and influence, how powerfully it illustrates a spiritual truth. We influence one another! Paul wrote Corinth, “Do not be deceived. Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33). The word “company” is from a Greek word from which we get our English word “homily.” While that word means a sermon today, the original idea carried with it the idea of “companionship.” Yet, we preach a powerful sermon to all those who see, know, and are influenced by us. We will persuade them to think, speak, and act a certain way, and they will have the same effect on us! The potential impact of that, be it for evil or good, is tremendous! It is enough to cause us to be careful of our example, but also to be careful about who is influencing us! We cannot be subjected to influence without being, well, influenced!