Uniqueness. This is a word that has about a million clichés tied with it:
"Remember you are unique... just like everyone else."
"Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."
Just to name a couple. It is one of the most highly promoted attributes that one should embrace, and yet it is the least applied in day-to-day living for many people.
Ask anyone if they believe that they are unique, you will be answered with a resounding "Yes of course!" Because everyone knows there is only one of them in the world. (unless they are seriously deluded...) However if you ask "Do you live like you're unique?" you may be met with a blank stare, stammering, or a confused "what do you mean?"
Think about it. Are you the same person when you are out grocery shopping? At church? At a party? With your best friend? With your pastor? Your Mum? Your brother? Your dog?
On the surface, most people would probably still answer yes to this question. It's hard to look at yourself from another's perspective in several different scenarios at once. But if you think about this situation: you are at a party with a group of people you know, laughing at the jokes, talking loud and fast with everyone, when a quiet, strict person you know walks over and you suddenly begin to speak softer, taking on a more "civilised" air as you continue your discussion - and much less enthusiastically. After all, what would they think of you, laughing, out loud like that? You must look foolish. Better clam up a little, assume a detached demeanour so they don't think badly of you. You wouldn't want it to get around to other people who believe you are a quiet person that you were found to be laughing at a party, now would you?
Know that feeling?
The sad truth is, the silent expectations of the people we are around often subconsciously changes the way we think, act and speak. But why should it? We are created in God's image, and uniquely wrought together the way He desired. Our emotions, our feelings, the way we speak and think, our responses and reactions to circumstances; they all bear witness to the fact God designed us individually. Should we then be anything less than how He created us?
The reason I feel passionately about us being who we were made to be, is because once, I was another someone else.
When I was a lot younger, I was very much involved in our town's homeschool group. Though it was a great group of families and we all got along well, I fell prey to the myth that I must fit in with everyone. Though I was - and still am - a rather vocal person (i.e., not very quiet) I would tone down the way I spoke whenever I was in their company (I almost had a different voice for whenever they were around). The way I dressed always fitted in with the scheme of everyone else's attire. Certain topics I avoided during conversations because my thoughts on them would not have been accepted, and other topics I was interested in, I didn't dare broach because I knew they wouldn't be found pleasing by the majority. Even in rare cases I did bring such subjects up, I let the condescending and disapproving attitudes of others stifle how I felt. In all honesty, I was almost a completely different person out, from what I was at home.
Don't get me wrong: there is a difference between not talking about some things with people till you get to know them better. There's also nothing wrong with being more quiet in a group before you warm up to talking. Dressing neatly and modestly is a good thing. However if the only reason you avoid talking about things that matter to you is because you're worried about what people think; if you are quiet and/or talk differently around people solely to gain their acceptance; if you dress a certain way only so that you fit in with everyone, then you have a problem. Thankfully by God's grace, this was something I quickly grew out of upon the dissolution of the homeschool group. Away from it all, I was able to regain a heavenly perspective on the situation and rectify the areas I had made mistakes. I recognized my error -
I had been living a lie.
To be anything less than the way you were created to be is fraudulent. By acting a certain way to gain acceptance, you are lying to yourself, as well as to the people you are around. Pure and simple, it is deceitfulness; a wickedness the Bible is very clear about. The scary truth is that if you change the way you are for the sake of someone else, it is a sin. Ouch.
Another thing that put this entire issue into better perspective for me, was the fact that even if people liked the way I was when I was different around them, they weren't liking me, they were liking another someone else. I was not only being someone else, I was being another someone else! There is only one of each of us, so that meant that if I wasn't being me, I was being a double of another person! So the truth was, the me they were liking, was not even me. They were liking some other person. This realization was quite sobering. Everyone wants people to like them, however if being a double of another is the only way to gain affection, it isn't even you people are giving it to. They don't like you.
So I dropped the fraud. Being more than one person is hard work, and I realized that doing so simply was not worth it, and it was not the way God meant for me to live. So I became the real me. (what a frightening thought) I re-entered the world fully expecting people to run and hide when they saw me coming. I mean, I wasn't trying to fit in! *gasp* I wasn't trying to please everyone, so that obviously meant I would be pleasing no one by being the one God made me to be.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
I found that I was more readily accepted as "the real deal" than I ever was as a fake. This fact still remains a mystery to me to this day, and I am constantly awed and grateful to God that He allowed the crazy me, flaws and all, to be accepted by people I have grown to love and care about by simply being the person He made me to be.
But, alas, we're all human. (surprise, surprise) We all want people to like us. Yet the sad truth is, no matter how perfect we are, no matter how many T's we cross, and shoes we tie, (or let walk on top of us) there will still be people who don't think we're worthy of the air they breathe. It's something we can't change, and all the trying in the world will only make you feel worse. So what can we do?
We can let Christ live through us, for us.
Seriously, why do we strive so hard to win the approval of others when we already have the greatest approval of all from our Almighty God? Isn't it rather silly that we chase after the affections of fallen mortals who don't see us for what we really are, when we are sealed by the love of a Saviour who knows exactly who we are, and yet, still died for us? Why should we try striving to please others who may never like us for it, when we can let God love them through us instead? He would have a much better chance of changing their hearts then we ever could on our own!
We are uniquely designed to be vessels for Christ's love, not to be cardboard cut-outs of our fellow man. We were not made to live out our entire lives as mirrors of whatever the world presents to us as "acceptable", but to be lanterns for the Light of the world to shine out of. We are made to hold the source of Life, not to portray a dim reflection of fallen creation. Our perception of ourselves should be seen through God's eyes, not the eyes of others. God made you to laugh just the way you do! He made you to see the funny side of life, or to appreciate the smallest of things. He designed you to feel a deep hurt for others when they are in pain, and with the knack for wearing simple clothes with style. Your voice was meant to ring out and bounce off the walls, and God gave you that shy spirit that thinks before it says anything. He loves your crazy ideas, and the fact you can do cartwheels. You were made to live who you are!
This is not to say we all don't have parts of our characters that need work. However the more time spent with our Creator, the more He perfects those things that He has put in us - smoothing the rough areas, and emphasizing the weak places. This isn't about disregarding the areas we are called to work on, it is about living as the person you truly are inside.
The way we see and compare ourselves is like a compass. Our true North should always be pointing towards Jesus: the One through Whom we live. However if we allow other people to influence the way we see of ourselves, causing us to change the way we think and act, our compass deviates from True North. This results in the needle spinning in endless circles, winding up with us not knowing where we are and wishing we could remember where North was, and with it, our True source of identity.
So I ask you, my friends: where is your compass pointing? Is it spinning in a circle pointing to fifty other identities or have you re-aligned with True North? Do you want to be defined by how God sees you, instead of what the world expects of you? Are you ready to boycott the other someone else; ready to throw off the fake nobody and live solely for the real Somebody?
Throw up the shades and let Christ shine through the real you. Rejoice in the fact God made you you; that you are special and cherished, and that God loves you just the way you are. Cast off the restraints the world has put on you, and be yourself for Jesus. He made you unique -
- live like it.
- Click here to read the sequel to this post.