Monday, March 28, 2011

People Who Aren't Like Me

We often are in relationships with people who are different from us. This is true in our family relationships or relationships at work or with friends and neighbors. That can be a source of both frustration and growth. If we see ourselves or our way as "right" and the other person or their way as "wrong," then we miss out on a great opportunity to benefit from what they bring to the table.

For the follower of Christ, if we keep in mind that God wants us to be more like Him, we will remember that we are constantly being molded into His image. We are growing in love, grace, compassion, gentleness, kindness, peacefulness, patience and much more.

That's the good news! The bad news is that He accomplishes that by putting us in situations where we have an opportunity to learn something or to fight against whatever "it" is.

God uses others in our lives to expose parts of ourselves that need to change. Sometimes He exposes boundaries that are missing or sagging. Sometimes He exposes selfishness, jealousy, narcissism, inflated egos, pride, arrogance, and other things that are in need of being rooted out and replaced with love, kindness, compassion, giving, self-control and much more.

Whatever it is He wants to accomplish in us, we need to keep in mind that it is for our ultimate good.

What if everything in the world was blue? Instead of our eyes feasting on the wonderful colors in nature, we would be all subjected to a view that would be decidedly boring! Without different colors, I doubt if artists such as Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, or James McNeill Whistler would have been inspired to create their beautiful works of art. It takes the blues, greens, yellows, reds, and purples to give contrast that makes it all beautiful!

What if everything we ate tasted like chocolate? As much as I really love dark chocolate, I have to admit that after awhile I would be really tired of it. We need sweet, salty, and savory. We need smooth and crunchy. We need different flavors and textures to make food interesting. Chefs such as Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, Emeril Lagasse, Giada De Laurentiis, or Michael Symon would not be inspired to create their yummy dishes if all foods were the same!

It is the same with people! God made us all different for a reason. If we were all the same, we would be like cardboard cutouts or clones and our relationships would be, well...boring at best!

In relationship difficulty where there are differences of style or opinion, here are some tips:

1) Remember that this is probably not "life and death." Develop a healthy sense of humor about your differences with the other person. Learn to laugh at yourself as well!

2) Remember that it is very possible that this other person is not wrong, but just different.

3) See what you can learn about the situation and seek compromise.

4) Learn to communicate to see how they view whatever the situation is.

5) Develop an interest in figuring out "what makes this person tick." He/she sees the world differently than you do. What makes no sense to you makes perfect sense to him/her.

6) Ask yourself if there are unhealthy or sinful attitudes in you that are being exposed and take steps to turn that around.

Variety is good and we can really learn from one another if we approach it with a healthy attitude! When we learn to see others who are different from ourselves as persons of value who bring something valuable to the table, we can begin to function together in ways that are beneficial.