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People Resist Exiting Dangerous Fires

Psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Grosz points to research that shows we usually don't respond when a fire alarm rings. Instead, of leaving the building immediately, we stand around and wait for more clues. But then even with more information, we still won't make a move—and sometimes that proves deadly. For instance, in 1985, 56 people were killed when a fire broke out in the stands of a soccer match in England. Close examination of television footage later showed that fans did not react immediately and continued to watch both the fire and the game, failing to move towards the exits.

Research has also shown that when we do move, we follow old habits. We don't trust emergency exits. We almost always try to exit a room through the same door we entered. After a fire in the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Kentucky left 177 people dead, forensic experts confirmed that many of the victims sought to pay before leaving, and so died in a queue.

Grosz concludes:

After 25 years as a psychoanalyst, I can't say that this surprises me. We resist change. Committing ourselves to a small change, even one that is unmistakably in our best interest, is often more frightening than ignoring a dangerous situation. We don't want an exit if we don't know exactly where it is going to take us, even—or perhaps especially—in an emergency … We want to know what new story we're stepping into before we exit the old one.

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Change; Repentance; Spiritual growth—When we really need to change, we're often frozen in fear or complacency. Spiritual growth requires a willingness to take steps of repentance that lead to change. (2) Help from God; Salvation—When we're in the "fires" of life and we really need help from God (for salvation, guidance, rescue, forgiveness), we are often the most afraid to call out for help. We need to trust God and cry out for help.

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