Stop Being Yourself And Try To Fit In

Jan 15

Stop Being Yourself And Try To Fit In

friendshipSo I’ve been hearing a repeating message lately, and when that happens, I start to wonder if it’s God talking.

Either way, I’m paying attention. The message is this: whatever happened to Christian community?

I’ve heard this question asked 3 times in the past 5 days from three different people.

The first time was last week talking to someone from our church. She had visited another church in Nebraska (I think), and experienced such warmth from the congregation–she could tell that they truly loved one another and enjoyed being around each other. She immediately felt welcomed and among family.

The second time was this past Sunday after church. A new couple visited our church for the first time, and they were questioning why people (Christians) out here in Colorado don’t like to hang out together. It seems that if anyone has free time, they whisk their family away to the mountains or something along those lines. Whatever happened to Christians getting together for a fun time? They were reminiscing about their church back from the midwest that was much more communal, where it was fun to be around each other. Ironically, their church back in Chicagoland was the same church I attended when I lived back there. That was pretty cool!

The third time I heard this was today at a video deposition–the court reporter. I found out she was a Christian, but hasn’t been able to find a church in the area where she senses real community. They had great community at their church when they lived in Hawaii, but here it’s another story. She and her husband have found plenty of churches in Colorado that “preach the Word” or are “Spirit-led,” but none where they felt that the people just enjoyed each other.

I’ve decided that it’s just the culture “out West.” I’ve lived in three different American cultures so far: midwest, deep south, and now the west. Each is different. In the deep south, everyone gets into your business. In the west, everyone leaves you alone. Neither equals community. I grew up as a child in the midwest, so I can’t really judge it objectively. After all, children/youth tend to be very communal. So out of all three places, the midwest seems more communal to me than the other two cultures, simply because I was more community-minded when I was younger.

Then it hit me. Perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to community is the axiom “don’t try to fit in, be yourself.” Perhaps that’s not as wise as it seems. After all, we all learned growing up that if we wanted to have friends, one needed to fit in. Why would that change in adulthood? Out west, it seems people here take pride in being/living different from everyone else. Especially out here in rural Colorado. So this type of..what I’ll call “opinionation”… rises. Everyone is convinced that their way of life is better than everyone else’s. So when we get together, we don’t try to fit in.

Here’s the deal with community–when you live in a larger community (like a city or a suburb), everyone has to place the common good above the individual’s good. It might be ideal for YOU to have a goat, but not for your next-door neighbors. So you defer to your neighbors. It might be ideal for YOU to keep more of your money, but you are willing to pay higher taxes so that there are paved roads, sidewalks, and parks.

In rural areas, everyone can live as weirdly as they want to live, and pretty much live however they want. If they want to live in a dung heap, they can. If they want to blast their music loud, they can. Personal freedom is at its highest, but that also sometimes makes it hard to come together for community. After all…who wants to hang out with people who are…weird? That’s not attractive.

I think it’s time for us to be less of ourselves, and more willing to fit in. That doesn’t mean we have to be fake or compromise our morals. (It’s not a good idea to cave in to the “wrong crowd.”) What it means is that we need to value friendship a lot more and personal freedom a lot less. We have to learn to like people enough to be willing to fit in with them so that we can have fun with them. I can already hear people saying, “But people should like me for who I am!” Well…what if who you currently are isn’t all that attractive? Does that hurt your ego too much? Maybe it’s true for all of us–that we are all unattractive until we become refined and shaped by those around us. Perhaps God made us that way, and we are resisting that by refusing to be like other people? I do agree that people should accept you with all your faults–but believe me, the goal is to see some improvement there. 😉

I mean…What’s so wrong with being like other people? Especially if you like them!!!

And what does it say if you don’t want to become more like the people around you? It’s clear to me that you won’t want to be like other people if you don’t like them. But what kind of community can you have with other people if you don’t like them? It seems to me that if you like someone, you’ll want to be more like them. Even if it’s not who you currently are. Who cares? Try to fit in! Maybe it’s not as bad as people have told you it is. Maybe Paul was on to something about being all things to all people…

That is, unless you’d rather “be yourself” than to descend down from your lofty life for the sake of having fun with other people. But who would want to go to a church full of people like that??

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