Difference. Every teenager’s nightmare. Every oppressive regime’s enemy. Every person’s inescapable truth.
Apart from the crowd
I remember growing up, how there were a group of kids in my lift club that would call me ‘special’. You might think that was a nice thing to say… but you didn’t know the tone in which they said it. They weren’t referring to anything good. But they were also not insinuating that I was stupid. It was simply that I was different. Granted I was getting a whole lot of opportunity for solo work that they weren’t – it could have been jealousy. But regardless of their reasons, it was just one way that I was aware that I was unique.
To be honest, I didn’t have much to hide behind. After dancing for six years, I started a dance crew at the age of 14. I was composing and performing songs at school, achieving well academically and failing dismally socially. I was the son of two well-respected teachers and then pastors in my school and church community. I had an incredibly high EQ for a teenager, which didn’t help. There were many ways in which I was just too different to even try to be the same as someone else.
Party of one
That came with rejection and sometimes there was ridicule. Many times it caused distance because of some sort of ‘pedestal’ I was put on. Being different is lonely.
Well… let me restate that. Being different is lonely if you view everyone else as the same. That’s where the fault in my thinking caused most of my struggle as a young guy.
Everyone is different. Some deny it, some fight it, some embrace it, but few truly use it.
Yes, your uniqueness adds so much benefit to the world. You need to do some groundwork first, to make sure that all the struggle and vulnerability of being different is WORTH it:
1. Your uniqueness is for OTHERS
I know what it’s like to not be able to identify with anyone in the room. I know what it’s like to want to have a conversation that will be meaningful, but not being able to find anyone who thinks like you. Yes, friends and family you can identify with are important. BUT you are not placed on this earth to identify with others, you are here to make a difference.
And you cannot make a difference without being different.
Your unique skills, the way you understand life, your style, your opinions, your gifts and skills are NEEDED in the room where no one else is the same. They are NEEDED at the table where no one else can understand you. They are VITAL in broadening people’s worldview, in breaking down biases and building a better reality. You are not different for your own edification, you are different for the betterment of others. Your difference doesn’t make you a stigmatised target or an awkward add-on. It makes you a bridge into a greater market reach in business, it makes you a unifying agent in social situations when new people come, it makes you an educator for change in times of struggle AND you become a trusted ally in progressive thinking.
You might not be someone’s friend because you have the same beliefs, ideas or background, but you WILL be a friend to that person’s future if you allow yourself. Get the focus off of what you can’t get. See your difference as an asset and put it to work for the good of others.
2. Your uniqueness is a cog, not a cage
I think recent times have shown how polarising the difference can be when the focus is self-protection. I have grown to feel sorry for those that are not willing to accept a difference of opinion, or change of circumstances. They have imprisoned themselves in their own comfort. They have fought so hard to identify with those around them that they no longer have the freedom to experience the incredible richness of diversity.
You are not meant to use your ‘differentness’ as an excuse to abdicate from society. It’s an important element in making sure we all stay on course as we move ahead.
I have learnt to appreciate that everyone is unique. And because of that, we all need each other. I for one consider people, more than any functional requirements when it comes to an organisation. But that has come back to bite me sometimes – because the practical realities still need to be outworked. The moment I align myself with someone who is incredible at tasks and strategic administration, I find myself able to care for people a whole lot better – because they grow in the tasks as well as in their identity. Everyone’s strengths help balance out the negative repercussions.
You will never be the sole solution to the world. You need people different to you to compensate for your shortfalls. You need to align your uniqueness with that of others in order to amplify the impact you can have on this world. You were made to be a part of something bigger. Don’t be a spinning cog all by yourself. It will simply push people away. Align yourself in a community.
3. Your uniqueness speaks of someone greater
Many times I asked God, “Why am I so different?” Even though I didn’t get a direct answer, over the years that I have spent getting to know Him better, I have learnt that God Himself demands diversity.
Every subtle difference in perspective, expression and skill in its purest form reveals an element of the greatness of God.
Every angle represents a 4-dimensional picture of who God is.
Every different skill and passion woven into the fabric of humanity together depicts a vastly creative, vibrantly expressive and violently passionate Creator.
That realisation truly enabled me to begin to celebrate the fact that I am different. Knowing God’s immensity allowed me to understand my otherness. Beyond that, I actually began to be grateful for my uniqueness.
If you are ever struggling with your identity in relation to others, I would encourage you not to look for the closest community to identify with. First, invite God to personally explain and reveal Himself to you, through His son Jesus. There is nothing greater than having an intimate relationship with the person who gave you your uniqueness. You can know Him. Click on the link below to find out more.