Same difference

I don’t think any (or many) people think everyone is exactly the same in every way, or that no one has anything at all in common with anyone else. As usual, disagreement comes in where you draw the line — to what extent, in what ways, are people the same and different?

Mainly I’m talking about psychological stuff, of course.

At a recent playdate with two friends and their kids, we moms were talking about various issues and hangups, and one suggested that the more we realize how alike we are, how much everyone else has the same issues, the more at peace we can be.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since then, off and on, and I’m just not sure I agree — not completely.

Yes, I realize that everyone has things they are insecure about, everyone wants to be loved and accepted, everyone has something they’re proud about, and so on.

But what makes me insecure might be perfectly comfortable for someone else, what makes me feel loved might be indifferent to someone else, what makes me proud might be boring to someone else, and vice versa, and so on.

There have been “oh, you too?” moments, but there have also been the blank stares — the people who just don’t understand what the big deal is about whatever it is I’m trying to explain.

I’ve also been thinking about this stuff in terms of how it affects being the church — theoretically, being united in Christ ought to mean it’s possible to live in real community with any other believers, and yet there are some folks (in church or otherwise) that I’m more inclined to be open with and some less. I’m still not exactly sure what it means to be the church — what kind of community it is — how to practice agape when affection is lacking.

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2 thoughts on “Same difference

  1. I think this is a pretty astute set of observations that most people never come to. They simply assume that anyone who is different from them is “weird” or worse.

    I do personality preference assessments as part of my job. It’s a pretty complex instrument, and I’ve seen that if someone has a high or low score (compared to “norm”) that he has a hard time understand people who are different _on that element_. People who are very different from “norm” can’t even imagine that other people are another way.

    For example, a woman scored very high on a need for Quietness to recharge and get energy. She runs into a great deal of problems in the American church because of our loud, boisterous atmosphere. She thinks worship should be done together, but in separate rooms and in complete silence, with the occasional quietly sung psalm.

    Some people have scores that are very different from “norm”. They have Strong personalities that people react to immediately and viscerally. The CEO of the assessment company is such and people almost immediately either hate or love him. (I loved him immediately.) The reaction is emotional rather than rational, and therefore is extremely hard to dislodge. He doesn’t get in front of certain clients because of that.

    The kick is that a whole bunch of people understand each other very easily. There are others who, because of innate personality preferences, are harder for most people to comprehend. Nothing wrong with either one: you have to deal with who you are.

    And everyone doesn’t have the same issues. Not everyone has the same level of need for love, security, or acceptance. Or may experience these through very different channels, as you observed. There are people who have very little need of human interaction, cannot live without massive levels of risk, or can go off on their own while everyone rejects them. There are even biblical models for people who are different like this. They are hard for others to understand because they are very different from “norm”, which may even differ from society to society.

    Add into that the idea of the seven levels of mental processing and you can end up with a mess.

    Not that any of this is necessarily relevant. It’s just information about why sometimes people don’t connect, even when they want to. As someone who spent a long time driving people away, I found it comforting (after a long while of disappointment) to know that my personality preferences are quite different from most people. I can understand them, usually, but they are unlikely to understand me. Although I can create a place for others to feeling belonging and acceptance, it will only tolerate me to a point. So it goes. At least now I can see why and quit condemning people in my church because they are simply not like me.

  2. Manasclerk — thanks, as always. I’d love to hear more about your experience — do you still find that you drive people away? If not, what changed? Do you feel you are living in community with other believers in the way the Gospel seems to require us to? How?

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