Is it sad that a gazelle does not fly?
Or that a sparrow is not fleet of foot?
Shall I grieve for the squirrel that does not swim to the depths?
For the otter that does not play in the treetops?
Or shall I simply marvel at the astounding creation around me,
Celebrating a spectrum of life whose experiences I will never be able to comprehend?
Making Peace With Yourself
Many of us are on a journey of discovering our uniqueness, growing into an acceptance of who we are, and learning to adapt our lives and expectations accordingly. And it’s so easy to think the goals of this journey are to embrace who we are, build a life suited for our type, live out our relaxed, loving relationship with God, and accomplish good work on this earth.
But we can do all that and still live in a haunted state of alienation and disconnection. And that hurts our hearts terribly.
I believe we will never be able to truly make deep peace with ourselves if it is only about us and our kind.
The Goal of the Uniqueness Journey
The end purpose of growing into who we were created to be is not to simply make peace with who we are, but
- to intertwine our life with certain safe others who are vastly different from us,
- to accept them in their unfathomable foreignness,
- to consider them with honor and harmony,
- and to grow in peace with them as much as is up to us.
We highly sensitive people profoundly need less sensitive people in our lives. And those less sensitive people profoundly need us. But neither of us ever need to look or function like the other.
But It’s Really Hard
Honoring someone in their differences sounds like an inspiring, reasonable thought. But it’s much harder to put into practice than it sounds. Much harder.
The sad fact is when we human beings look at other people who are different from us, we tend to see defect, not difference. And we rarely recognize their treasure.
The truth is it’s far easier to see flaw than treasure.
Why It’s So Hard
Let me explain one reason for this. As human beings, we don’t often truly experience what it’s like to be anybody but ourselves. Some of us get glimpses, but others get none. And because our own lives are all we’ve ever experientially known, we don’t tend to comprehend that what we do so naturally and effortlessly is a strength, and that that strength is a gift.
Instead, we see our strengths as Normal Human Default Mode. In fact, the easier something is for us, the more likely we are to see it as “just something people do”, with “people” meaning everybody, and “do” implying expectation.
And so we measure people by whether they properly measure up to what we believe is Normal Human Default Mode. And approve and disapprove accordingly.
Those who are fundamentally different from us fail to share our default settings. And we tend to see such lack in an unflattering light, whether we call it unenlightenment, immaturity, character flaw, defect, failure, stubbornness, rebellion, or whatever.
One Man’s Story
I once spoke with a highly sensitive, creative man who had a great drive to develop his human potential and what he called his “spirituality”. He was broken-hearted that his wife wasn’t pursuing her own spiritual potential. She just liked to do stuff. As he described her, I recognized an extroverted “doer” kind of person. She was highly social, had lots of friends, liked being out, was not happy spending much time alone — basically the total opposite to him.
He explained how she had failed to respond to his efforts to help her grow spiritually. He interpreted her behaviors as total failure to be in Normal Human Default Mode. And he determined his marriage was in great trouble, and that she was the source of that trouble. He had persisted in the marriage because he has been convinced that ultimately she would change into the person he knew she should be.
When I met him, he was in great crisis because he had begun to fear she might never change. And to him, that meant the marriage was over.
My heart grieved as I listened to his fixed belief that there was only one acceptable way to be in this world, and that the only hope for relationship with his wife was if she measured up to his default mode.
An Treasure-Seeking Alternative
I would like to suggest that when we look at someone who fails to function in our default mode, we develop a different mindset.
When faced with the absence of a familiar, comfortable behavior in someone else, we can search out the less familiar treasure God has put into them.
So in this man’s situation, he could have said, “Well, my wife doesn’t have my spiritual appetite. If somehow (unbelievably) she wasn’t designed to have that appetite (could it even be possible?), what does she have that could be called a strength?”
And if he had eyes to see, he would have at least seen a loving, connected heart and a woman who served him by holding down most of the household chores, allowing him to retreat into his creative work undisturbed. And he could have blessed those things in her and built a relationship with her that made light of their differences and honored their opposite strengths.
What the Process Entails
So the next time someone violates your belief of how people are supposed to function, ask yourself, “If they don’t have that behavior, what good thing is present?” And go on a treasure hunt. And in so doing you will counterintuitively be making progress toward making peace with yourself.
You may need to ask Jesus to give you His eyes, because it can be quite the process to humbly learn to value what God considers the treasure in someone else.
As you practice this, I can’t promise anyone will receive your gift of honor. And unfortunately you really can’t expect a particular person to reciprocate your treasure-seeking eyes, so please don’t cast your precious self in front someone who is not able to value you.
It’s not about changing the way the world sees each other, or even about how the world sees us. It’s about a shift in our own hearts that will change how we see and value other people. And in the process, usher in a greater healing into our own hearts that just might be contagious.
A Look at the Scriptures
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
I Corinthians 12:14-26
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have not need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.