A plea to embrace unique characteristics

I have to say, I appreciated James Kennedy’s article last week. I think I’ve said before that one of my top StrengthsQuest results was Individualization. I’m absolutely fascinated by the way you are different from your roommate, and your roommate is different from his girlfriend, and his girlfriend is different from her teacher, and her teacher is different from the president…

Need I go on?

However, there is one thing I was not so thrilled about with James’ article. I agreed with him; it is wonderful that God created us all different, cares enough about us that we each have something unique to offer, but so what? I mean, cherishing people is all well and good, but what the heck does that mean, anyway?

It is at this point that I will introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Oscar.

Oscar is not real, but he is representative. He’s a really great guy, a big thinker and interested in ideas.

Let’s pretend Oscar is a bit of a nerd. Sometimes he wears a bowtie and fez, just for the fun of it, and sometimes he researches—like, really researches—random topics in the library. So he goes out to enjoy his nerd-dom by cosplaying an anime character one sunny Friday morning, and what does he get?

He certainly doesn’t get cherished. He gets looked at like he’s crazy.

I ask you, where is the snowflake love?

Or maybe Oscar’s not a nerd. Maybe he’s an introvert who walks around with his headphones in. It’s not that he does not want to make friends, it is just that he does not really know where to start.

Of course, once you have the reputation of someone who does not want to be spoken to, it is hard to break. People just assume you’re unfriendly or do not want to be bothered, and soon, it is easier for Oscar to wear headphones all of the time.

Introverts are snowflakes too…

Maybe Oscar is not an introvert, but a part of a racial minority. Maybe, either from a fear that they’ll be taken for racist or some deep feeling that Oscar is inherently different from them, people do not talk to Oscar. I’m not saying they’re racist, but they’re certainly not cherishing his snowflake uniqueness, are they?

But now let’s pretend Oscar’s just…unconventional. Maybe one day he will be wearing a suit and tie, and the next day he will wear short shorts that someone stole from the eighties. Maybe he has a ridiculous accent. Maybe he’s trying to start a Skipping Club. Maybe he’s socially awkward. Maybe his face is covered in zits. Maybe he needs a haircut. Maybe he makes jokes that no one gets. Maybe…

Maybe sometimes he feels very, very alone.

There were two things that struck me about this place when I was a freshman. The first was how friendly everyone is. The next is how isolated I felt.

JBU is good at being polite and welcoming. JBU is also good at being socially homogenous. I cannot tell you how many girls’ names I’ve mixed up because they happened to be wearing similar t-shirt-sweater-scarf combinations when I met them.

Now, I’m not going to tell you to go out and do something crazy. I’m going to tell you to go out and be you. Because I know that there’s something deep inside you that you hide because it’s not “normal.”

Let me tell you something: normal is relative. The truth, on the other hand, is set in stone, and the truth is that you are God’s workmanship. Why would you ever want to hide such a masterpiece?

What about Oscar, then? He knows he’s different and can’t really help but be different. Well, he has got a head start on becoming the Oscar God meant for him to be, but that is not an end in and of itself. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (That’s Ephesians 2:10.) I would tell Oscar that he is different for a purpose, and that he needs to go figure out what that purpose is.

I am still trying to learn this myself. If you know me, then you know already that “normal” is not in my repertoire, but I am also trying to learn that being different is not a political stance or a battle hymn or something to rub in someone else’s face. I am different because God wants my different to… well, make a difference.

Own your uniqueness, and remember to respect the uniqueness of others. We can all learn something from each others’ differentness, and, most beautiful of all, we all have something to offer, to build up others and glorify God.