The UFOs were supposed to arrive around 4PM on December 17, 1954.
At least that’s what the Seekers, a Chicago-based cult group, were told by their leader through a decoded message. The core belief of the Seekers was that the end of the world was near and that “spacemen” were coming to rescue them from this impending doom.
But, as 4PM came and went, the spacemen never arrived.
“What went wrong?” some of the members asked themselves. The group was forced to rationalize the no-show.
Initially, some members of the group suggested that their saviors from space never arrived because a few non-committed members were at the event.
This theory was not accepted by the group, so they kept discussing.
Finally, one of the group leaders declared that this had been a “practice run” to test their skills. It was all a drill, and they all had passed magnificently.
This explanation was wholeheartedly embraced by all but one member of the group.
However, over the course of the next week, three more rapture predictions were followed by three more failures and three more equally impressive rationalizations.
One such prediction never materialized because it was “another drill.” Another failed because, as the leadership determined, the group’s deep dedication actually prevented the apocalypse from happening altogether.
This ingenious excuse changed the Seekers from failed prophets to the saviors of humanity in one fell swoop.
And with each failed prediction, most of the group members stay committed with some of them even increasing the conviction of their beliefs.
Here is how one member explained their commitment to the group in When Prophecy Fails:
I’ve had to go a long way. I’ve given up just about everything. I’ve cut every tie. I’ve burned every bridge. I’ve turned my back on the world. I can’t afford to doubt. I have to believe.
The most amazing part of this story is that out of the 11 members of the Seekers, only two left the group following the string of incorrect predictions.
As the authors of When Prophecy Fails note:
It is reasonable to believe that dissonances created by unequivocal disconfirmations cannot be appreciably reduced unless one is in the constant presence of supporting members who can provide for one another the kind of social reality that will make the rationalization of disconfirmation acceptable.
In other words, if you have a social support system, any such conflicting beliefs can be overcome with rationalizations.
This is evidenced by the fact that the two members who left the Seekers were the ones most isolated from the group.
This brings me to my main point.
... there is a silver lining in all this. That silver lining is that people don’t care about your failed predictions because they don’t really care about your failures.
This really hit home for me after reading a post from fellow blogger Four Pillar Freedom where he discussed what he has learned since he turned 18:
The world isn’t watching you as closely as you think. Take more chances. Your failures will mostly go unnoticed. And those who do notice rarely care.
And it’s so true.
We tend to forget that most people are so worried about their own problems that they don’t have time to think about your own faults
*Featured post photo by Brooke Denevan on Unsplash