Embracing Differences

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I felt my throat start to tighten, and the sudden sense of slight panic. I’m having a casual discussion with another mom. A friend. And she is doing something so very different from me. And it’s something I feel passionate about.

I feel the sudden need, right then and there, to make a judgement call. One of us must be right, and one of us wrong.

If she’s right and I’m wrong, then I need to change and be like her.

But if I’m the one that’s right? I can’t help but having just a small smug of satisfaction that I’ve got this thing called life figured out just a little bit better.

Differences would often threaten me precisely because I felt that need to categorize everything into a right and wrong category.

There are moral absolutes. And those things are definitely right or wrong. But oh the variety of ways to live the rest of life. So many ways to parent. So many ways to keep a home. So many foods to love and not love. So many personalities. So many ways to live.

There are as many ways as there are people. Because we are individuals with distinct personalities, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses.

Some people’s gut reaction when they face someone who does something differently from them is to immediately be skeptical, or even offended.“What?! You don’t like cats?” And then they immediately set out to convince the other person of how wonderful cats are.  Or dogs, or coffee, or chocolate, or…

But when we go beyond preferences, and there are significant differences in how we live life, we often feel pressured to make a judgement call.

I’ve come to really love differences. I don’t even feel the need anymore to have to try what everyone else is doing. (Though sometimes I definitely do!) I have come to love seeing the variety of ways people live.

It makes the world such a unique place. And it broadens my little world to see others doing things differently.

We need to retrain our gut reaction.

Instead of responding in such a way (though unintentional) that you make the person feel like they have done something wrong for liking something you don’t like, appreciate the fact that they are different from you.

Instead of making an immediate judgement call of right or wrong on something that really is not a moral absolute, celebrate the fact that God has given us all different path to live.

Instead of responding in shock, respond with curiosity and genuine interest.

Sometimes we need the courage to be ourselves. And other times we need the graciousness to let others be different from us. And that just might take even more courage.

Do you find yourself reacting positively or skeptically to people’s differences?

 

Comments

  1. I’ve had the throat tightening thing, too! I find this is very difficult to do with parenting. The mindset you are initially describing leads to always feeling superior or always feeling inadequate. No one has time for that!

    Learning to accept differences, I think, goes hand-in-hand with learning to be yourself. I think I spent most of my twenties trying to “be myself.” The thirties seem to be dedicated to allowing others to be themselves, too. Great thoughts this morning, Johanna, as always.

    • “leads to always feeling superior or always feeling inadequate” — that’s a perfect way to put it. Thanks so much for adding to the discussion.

      And I think I am following the same progression as you. First, learning to be myself, and now learning to let everyone else be themselves!

  2. Differences in people can be great. They can also be extremely annoying. I find it interesting to watch what Jesus did with “different” people–those we wouldn’t really want to get too close to. He went for their hearts, not actions (reforming them), not personalities (changing who they were). He knew that a heart change was the only thing they needed. I think we too often judge a person by their outside (be it dress, personality, manner, lack of this or that, education, status, etc.) without really seeing their heart. It’s a challenge to be more like Christ. And then, we can enjoy those very different people around us!

  3. “Sometimes we need the courage to be ourselves. And other times we need the graciousness to let others be different from us. And that just might take even more courage.”

    This. Very convicting.

  4. “I’ve come to really love differences.” Doesn’t that make life so much more enjoyable? :)

  5. I think it often comes from insecurity. We let ourselves be judged by others (or percieve we are) not by God. When I can remember that I really only need to please God, it’s much easier to let other people do the same without feeling like I need to defend my choices or change their minds. Great topic.

    • I totally agree. The more confident I have become in my own decisions, the easier it is to let others do their own thing! Great additional thoughts. Thanks.

  6. This is the topic that is on my mind the most as of late. I gave birth to my first child eight months ago and was not expecting the onslaught of feelings of failure I would face with things that didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. So many [well-meaning!] mothers shared their concerns and tips with me. So many [well-meaning!] brochures and books educated me on the importance of breastfeeding, eating organic food during pregnancy, not letting a baby cry, etc, etc. I knew *exactly* how I was going to do things. And yes, all those goals are GOOD goals–I’m not saying they’re not! Well, when a lot of those things didn’t work out how I *wanted* or how I tried to *plan*, I felt defeated, hopeless, and even depressed.

    What a waste of time. What a stupid pit of pride I had fallen into.

    I am happier now than I have been in over a year because I smashed those idols. Pleasing man no longer appeals to me. There are moral absolutes, but there are SO many ways to live, just like you said. I wish more people (especially mothers) would grasp the concept that our only identity that matters is our identity in Christ–not in man.

    • So glad you can look back on that with great perspective. It took me longer than a year to get to that point, so that’s awesome. I do agree with you that moms seem to have the most difficult time with this. I think it is because we desperately want to do the right thing for our children so when we come to a decision it is difficult not to make everyone else see it just like we do.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspective, Kristin.

  7. I’ve experienced that throat-tightening sensation. But the older I get, the more I appreciate people who see the world totally different. How boring would it be if we all thought the same? It’s what separates us from robots.

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