The Bible teaches what science in just now learning. The Bible says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 (NIV2011) Wisdom is contagious and stupid is contagious. Almost everything is contagious. If you are a 16 year old girl and your unwed 18-year-old sister gets pregnant, you are more likely to get pregnant.[1] If you struggle with weight (who doesn’t?) and your friend gains weight, you are more likely to gain weight. In fact, if your friend’s friend gains weight—a person you don’t even know—the odds go up that you will gain weight.[2]

Behavior is contagious, as this story illustrates.

On a fall morning in 1998, a teacher at a Tennessee high school noticed the smell of gas in her classroom and soon felt dizzy and nauseous. Some of her students then reported feeling ill as well, and they were transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital. As concerned staff and students watched them go, some of them started feeling sick, too.

That day, 100 people showed up in the emergency room with symptoms they believed to be associated with the exposure to gas at the school. But the illnesses could not be explained by medical tests. Extensive environmental tests conducted at the school concluded that no toxic source could be the cause, according to results published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

What occurred was real illness, although not caused by germs or fumes, according to Timothy F. Jones, lead author of the paper and deputy state epidemiologist at the Tennessee Department of Health.

“It was not an infection, but it was certainly transmitted,” Jones said.

It was a phenomenon known as mass psychogenic illness, in which symptoms are passed from person to person among people who are visible to one another.

“You get sick because you see someone else getting sick,” said Jones.

Mass psychogenic illness is an extreme example of the more general phenomenon of contagious behavior: the unconscious transmission of actions or emotions from one individual to another.[3]

Behavior is contagious. If you hang around godly people, you are more likely to become godly. If you hang around scripture-memorizing people, you are more likely to memorize scripture. If you hang around praying people, you are more likely to pray. If you hang around grumbling people, you are more likely to grumble. When you grumble, you tempt your friends to grumble. Don’t grumble.

It is not enough to be in the same room. It is not enough to sit on straight rows and watch the same events on the same stage. We must interact. We must talk. We must listen. We must connect.




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