We're Not the Same: Being Unique is a Good Thing - Lisa E Betz
Do you find it difficult to put up with those who are not the same as you are—who don’t share your worldview or who make choices you don’t agree with?
If we’re honest, we must admit we struggle with this.
And yet, as people who value authenticity and inner integrity, we want to be appreciated for who we really are, without being required to conform to someone else’s expectations. If we want this right for ourselves, we must uphold this same right for everyone else.
It’s OK that we’re not the same because God made each person unique and valuable
If each person is God’s unique, masterpiece, by definition no two are exactly the same. If we are each a masterpiece, custom designed for out specific roles, then no single temperament, ability, career, demographic, culture, or political ideology is superior to the rest.
That means others have as much right to their perspectives as we do to ours. If I deserve the freedom to live authentically and unconventionally, everyone else deserves that privilege as well. Therefore, a quietly unconventional mindset respects others, even when they make decisions, take actions, or uphold beliefs we disagree with.
Respecting others’ opinions doesn’t mean being untrue to our own.
It’s OK that we’re not the same, because unity doesn’t require conformity
We have a deep need to belong, therefore we seek groups where we feel united with others, sharing common interest or goals. We wish for unity in these groups.
However, unity doesn’t mean everyone thinks and acts identically. Instead, unity means everyone does his or her individual part for the benefit of the whole group. Consider a sports team. A team includes members with different skills and functions, but all are necessary for success. You can’t win games with a team consisting only of pitchers, quarterbacks, or goalies.
Likewise, we can have unity in a family, group, organization, or neighborhood while allowing room for each individual to differ from the others. We can allow our abilities, personality, and experiences balance and complement others, to the benefit of everyone.
It’s OK that we’re not the same because “otherness” is a benefit, not a threat
Isn’t it amazing that we are all made in God’s image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people?
If our life goal isn’t conformity then differences are not a threat. We need not fear difference or try to eradicate them. Instead, we see differences between us not as problems to fix, but opportunities to learn and discover new insights. Our lives are enriched by all the others around us who have different perspectives, ideas, interests, and beliefs.
When I was first married, my husband had certain interests that were new to me, and I had some that were new to him. (Interests we were not likely to have ever explored left to our own devices.) We each explored the other’s interests and in doing discovered some new things we truly enjoyed.
This is one small example of how “otherness” is a blessing rather than a threat. We have a choice. We can encounter other people’s way of life with an intent to learn and refine or expand our worldview, or we can keep our focus on determining who is “right” and who is not.
You and I each deserve to be accepted and loved for our true self. So does everyone else. Therefore, we honor each person’s right to live as authentically as we do—even when they make choices we don’t agree with.
These are some of the values we uphold that help us honor and respect those who are not the same as us:
- Unity doesn’t mean conformity. Rather, community thrives when each of us is free to be our most authentic self, fulfilling our unique part in the body to strengthen the whole.
- We will not allow the fear of “otherness” to blind us from seeing the God-given value in others who choose to live differently than we do.
- Differences do not threaten us, because God is in control. That means we’re not responsible for fixing those around us.
- How I view the world is not the only valid perspective. Therefore, I am enriched by interacting with others, sharing different ideas and perspectives.
- We can respect others without agreeing with their worldview or choices.
- We will honor others by speaking words of kindness and respect, not insults, contempt, or judgement.
When we honor everyone’s uniqueness and respect their right to live according to their own inner truth, we are combatting the attitudes and injustices that have created so much divisiveness in our society.
Thank you, Lord God, that you have given good gifts to each of us, so that together we can thrive, as each person does his part. You call us to live in harmony with one another, without pride, conceit, or passing judgement. Help me to love others with patience, kindness, humility, forgiveness, and persistence, and to remember that it’s not my job to judge others. I thank you that you are in control, so I don’t need to be.
Practice listening so others feel heard and understood.
(This is a real challenge! Are you ready?) This means when you offer to listen, you determine to listen without fixing, saving, advising or setting straight. (ie. no nagging, correcting, unsolicited advice, hints, leading questions, or finishing their thoughts for them.)
This can be really, really, really hard, but try it anyway. Keep your advice to yourself and focus on what the person is saying. Only ask questions that draw out and clarify their statements. When we succeed in this kind of listening, we give someone a rare gift. And we just might help them grow by allowing them to come up with good advice on their own (which means they’re much more likely to follow it).
Finally, ponder this quote. Wrestle with the concept. What if it’s true? How might the world be a better place if we all adopted this attitude?
“To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.”