Conforming & Diversity
Meaning of Conforming: of a person) behave according to socially acceptable conventions or standards be similar in form or type; agree.
Meaning of Diversity: It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising our differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. The state of being diverse; variety.
I am not entirely sure why the word ‘conforming’ makes me feel both angry and uncomfortable, but maybe it is the judgement I have received in the past or the lies I have believed about myself. I find myself feeling upset, that I feel defined by how I look or how I am as a person. Whether that’s an introvert, extrovert, chatterbox, shy, loud, humble or proud. These are all characteristics that people define us with and they determine whether or not, we are worthy or healthy to be around. I didn’t work this out from a paranoid thought but from an actual real-life judgement and experiences of being hurtfully rejected from not conforming enough.
Conforming is so easily done because it’s so easy to just go along with it just to fit in or be accepted. The sad thing is the things we follow are fickle and forever changing. For example, I have a funny and a sad story:
Here’s the funny one, when I was aged 12, I was badly bullied at school for various reasons, I never looked the part, my ears were always too big for my small head and my eyebrows too bushy and dark for my face. I started to feel so insecure and decided to let someone at school pluck my eyebrows until they were nearly gone. But yet now it’s the “in” thing to have eyebrows as big and as bushy as you can get them.
My sad story is that I let trend get the better of me when it came to losing weight, I was so sure being skinny was the so-called “in” thing, that I started to skip meals and it wasn’t healthy, which later caused me to become quite ill. My point is trends change and it can seem fun to follow at the time, but they are not always that stable.
Diversity is a beautiful thing to celebrate, we have all been made uniquely. We are not defined on how we look or what we can do. However, we are defined with something so much more worthy and that is the love of God. We are loved uniquely but equally by God, we are told "nothing can separate us from the love of God". Diversity may separate us from a man, but it doesn’t separate us from God. God celebrates your differences, He made those differences for a good reason. Diversity is what connects us to God. Each of us carries a part of who God is, that’s why He calls us to be His hands and feet. We have something to bring that no one else can, and it’s not defined by who is better than who. You have lost the objective if you even think that’s what defines a person or a calling. Ability is only a small part of the gift we are given, the part we grab old is the grace freely given for each of us to truly know who we are in Jesus Christ.
We are surrounded by a culture that endorses a follow me, love me, and be like me culture. A culture that is very inward-looking and wants everyone to know who we are - no matter the cost. (Guilty for this) The most profound truth is that we are children of God. We don’t belong to the world, so the pressure is off! We belong to Jesus. I am not saying let’s all have an attitude of “I don’t care what people think” or an attitude of “ I will only hang out with my kind of people”. I am saying let’s love one another better, let’s celebrate diversity. We may do this by getting to know someone that isn’t like us, giving more time to those who have something different to say or it may be just judging less and showing more empathy to someone. You may be surprised that not everything is as it seems. There is a child of God under every story and that child is more defined by God’s love for them, which supersedes any circumstance or character trait.
There’s one thing that gets in the way of celebrating diversity, and that is ‘comparison’. Comparison is a thief, which steals joy, friendships, growth and identity. Comparison can so easily turn into jealousy and resentment. I know this because it happens to me often, and I am challenged to love more and choose compassion over comparison.
Jesus was always so good at going against the flow of conformity. He was always surprising others with His actions and with what He had to say. One of those occasions is a time where He stood by a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. The Pharisees were just about to stone her for her actions, and yet Jesus called them out and said “Whoever of you is without sin, throw the first stone” Then the Pharisees left. (John 8 v7) Conforming would look like Jesus throwing the stone, but instead, He challenged them to look at themselves first. The diversity between the Pharisees, the adulteress and Jesus are incredibly different, but Jesus the Son of God, perfect in every way, made a way to accept all people and make light of unity even with the differences everyone shared. Diversity shouldn’t have to be the reason we dislike each other, but more of a reason to love one another more.
'We are not defined by what makes us different, we are defined by Jesus who unites us!'