It's not wrong; it's just different

By Gwen Sellers

It's not wrong, it's just different. I remind myself of this when confronted with people of another personality type. Obviously the statement is not always true. Some things are plain wrong. But I think the statement is truer than we sometimes give it credit for.

For example, it's not wrong to dislike chocolate (It sounds crazy to me, but I have friends like this). It's not wrong to prefer running outside to running on a treadmill or vice versa. It's not wrong to like chicken or Brussels sprouts or broccoli. It's not wrong to like hamburgers and fries. It's not wrong to like big parties. It's not wrong to prefer one-on-one meetings. These are all relatively easy examples. Most of us would probably agree that these things speak more to preference or personality than to morality.

But how often do we treat others who aren't like us as if there is something fundamentally wrong with them (aside from recognition of the fact that there is something fundamentally wrong with all of us called the sin nature)?

I have some friends who just don't make sense to me. They don't live their lives the way I would. Sadly, I find myself judging them rather than appreciating their differences. For instance, rather than appreciating the warm-heartedness of my friend who will delay completion of a task in favor of a relational connection, I judge her for being irresponsible. Instead of seeing the joy some of my friends get from dreaming up various possibilities, I see their inability to plan details. Instead of appreciating the gentle spirits of those who remain mostly silent apart from a few nuggets of wisdom, I assume they are disengaged or devoid of confidence.

Having this attitude is not only ungodly (1 Corinthians 12:12-25; Romans 12:3-6; Matthew 7:1-5; John 7:24; 1 Samuel 16:7), it means I miss out. There is so much to appreciate in the differences of others. If everyone in the world was like me, we would be in big trouble! Paul described the necessity of having differences within the church body (1 Corinthians 12:12-25; Romans 12:3-6). We each serve a different specific purpose, and yet we are all one body. I think the same principle applies even if my friends aren't part of my church. God designed them uniquely and intentionally. Who am I to question and judge the aspects of them that are different from me?

And it shouldn't stop at mere acceptance of the differences. Differences among people are cause to praise God. They speak to His creativity and the vastness of His image (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:14). Beyond that even, God often uses these differences to teach me and prune me (see John 15:1-11). From my friend who jumps at relational connection even with a full to-do list, I have learned the importance of valuing people over accomplishment. From my friends who dream, I have learned the joy of imagination and engaging with longing. From my quieter friends, I have learned the wisdom of holding my tongue. It should also be said that some of these friends teach me patience as well as reveal the sin that still resides in my heart. But regardless, these friends, differences and all, are cause for praise. Praise because God is creative and bigger than I could ever imagine. Praise because without them the world would be so much less beautiful. Praise because they have been used of God to reveal the depravity of my heart. And praise because they have taught me that a lot of the time being different isn't wrong, and can actually be quite freeing.

What about you? Do you have some friends who just don't make sense to you?

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Published on 7-29-13