Different Doesn't Have to be Bad!
My daughters are about as different as they come. Not much of a surprise since Robin and I are near opposites. On the Myers-Briggs scale, Robin is an ISFP, and I am an ENTJ. Reese, my 12yr old, is an extroverted feeler, very organized and detail oriented (ESFJ). She wears her emotions on her sleeves, and we NEVER have to guess what she is feeling. Reia, on the other hand, is an introverted feeler and much more reserved (INFP). Three ladies at home and they are all very, very different. Parenting and leading at home can be challenging with these unique and different personalities. Differences. I have found myself talking about them a lot lately, especially when focused on our mindsets and personalities. In Life Group this week we talked about our marriages, and differences came up. I was able to share our journey and discuss the progression from tolerating our differences to accepting our differences, to finally fully appreciating our differences. Not an easy journey, but it’s our story of two very independent personalities coming together. Robin and I first looked at our differences as something needing to be fixed, or the other person was wrong or even broken. Yea, it’s the truth...that’s our story, and my guess is if you are married you have experienced something similar.
On the work front, the same discussions are happening. A few weeks back I spoke with some of our new leaders on staff, and I highlighted the most critical and important factor for when thinking about self-awareness. We need to understand it can look something like this: tolerate > accept > appreciate. As we become more self-aware of ourselves and our team, we need to progress through the cycle. Our teammates and staff who are different (more often than not) can fall into the “tolerate” bucket at first. We must push through seeing the differences as wrong or negative, and then recognize the strength that comes in being different.
Reia and I just finished reading Sean Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” Sidebar; fathers, I highly encourage you to engage with your kids and lead them intentionally. As my pastor Craig Groeschel says best, ”Everyone ends up somewhere, but few end up somewhere on purpose.” Don’t fall into the trap of leading well at the office, and rest on your laurels at home. Ok, back to the point: Habit #6 - Synergize. Covey spends a lot of his time focused on "celebrating differences." His progression or cycle is: shun > tolerate > celebrate. Sounds similar, but I love that he ends with celebrating. Covey highlights the importance of having the openness and willingness to see differences in others and being able to celebrate them. As I process this personally, I see tremendous growth and improvement with Robin and our family when it comes to celebrating differences. But as I look at a broader set of realities, I see significant challenges in our society - how divided our political system has become, how divided our churches can be, how divided cultures and neighborhoods have become, and even how divided our workplaces have become. In a broad perspective, differences are not celebrated; it seems the differences are more scoffed at or shunned.
I recognize this is using a rather broad brush, but I believe we can all see it. No matter where in the world you are reading this email, celebrating differences isn't the headline story or the trending news article. So what do we do with this? Where do we even begin? Well, for me, I always try and take the same approach. I can not change anyone else, so why not focus on myself? For me, I will continue to work hard to not judge quickly or be quick to write off those who approach life differently than I do. No matter race, religious creed, age, sexual orientation, or personality type, there can be a genuine appreciation for views, opinions, and life. It’s possible to move beyond snap judgment based on differences, to finding great appreciation for each other as humans and judged by our character.
Let’s all remember more often than not - it's not better or worse; it's just different. Take a deep breath, then recognize it's beautiful when we can celebrate differences. Different doesn’t have to be bad.