Individuality or Conformity: Must You Choose?
While human beings may embrace individuality – qualities that distinguish one person from another – we may fear its ramifications. Our instinct is to conform. “Humans have a fundamental need to belong, just as we have needs for food and water,” says C. Nathan DeWall, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of Kentucky.
Our drive for acceptance goes way back. The earliest humans relied on the sense of belonging for physical survival. Living and working together allowed us to endure harsh climates and weak physical defenses. Yet even with today’s steady food supply, well-built homes, and first-responders, people feel safer and more protected when they are accepted in a group.
The battle: individuality vs. acceptance
As heroic and inspiring as individuality may appear, most of us are willing to minimize our uniqueness in order to be accepted and avoid being “voted off the island.” Psychologists have even coined the term “groupthink,” which identifies acceptance by group consensus.
There is no doubt that we face an ongoing internal battle – the hunger for individuality versus the need for acceptance. Can we meet both those needs? The biblical answer is not just a resounding “Yes.” It’s a command to do so.
Why scripture applauds both individuality and acceptance
Scripture reminds us that individuality is not just a good thing. It’s a God thing. To deny your uniqueness is to deny how God wired you (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4.) Romans 12:6 tells us, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (RSV). In other words, don’t hide your uniqueness. Use it.
Traditional herd mentality condemns individuality. Scripture applauds it – for more than one reason. Not only is each individual “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Each person’s strengths are needed. By learning to value differences in others, we can blend together to make a stronger whole. Individual strengths combined together to bring about a whole new meaning to acceptance.
- Identifying and valuing the differences in others underscores individuality by saying, “You’re unique and I need your uniqueness.”
- Blending differences in a family or a team underscore the need for acceptance by saying, “Together we glorify God.”
Individuality versus acceptance? Your choice needn’t be either/or. God says yes – to both.
God places a high value on both individuality and acceptance.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Romans 12:6, RSV)
- Which is your most natural approach: to take an individual stand or to strive for acceptance? Try to answer as honestly as you can.
- Name a time you considered avoiding your individual bent in order to be accepted by a group.
- How does a biblical approach to individuality and acceptance help you identify the strengths of those on your team and what they contribute to the group?
More devotionals …
Devotional: Is Your Eyesight Fuzzy or Clear?
Devotional: Pen in Hand – Embracing Your Strengths