Second in a 3-part series that celebrates how differences complete us
We have bought into the lie that differences between people divide us. Yet the truth is that God’s design is for our differences to complete us.
During this series, we address the 3-part cycle that celebrates how differences complete us. The first step, outlined in the previous article, is to discover your own strengths.
But close on the heels comes understanding the strengths of those around you. Only then can you find ways to blend together to be complete.
Understand Others’ Strengths: the Second Step in the Cycle of Hope
Most people embrace the default view that differences are a problem: others are not like you, so you cannot get along (you judge others); you are not like others, so you don’t fit in (you judge yourself); or you consider the whole matter to be irrelevant (you judge the idea of differences.) For instance, you may prefer a tidy workstation and look down on your nose at those who have papers everywhere. Or you may revere those who home school and feel your parenting abilities will never measure up to theirs. Or you may simply consider yourself a one-man island, isolating yourself and ignoring the richness differences offers.
Scripture cautions us about judging differences: “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2, NLT).
At issue with judging differences is pride (thinking your way is superior, and any other approach is wrong) … idolatry (placing others on a pedestal while discounting your own strengths) … and indifference (ignoring differences completely.)
The message is clear: a fool, says scripture, is one who ignores strengths in others because he wants to elevate only his agenda. The biblical definition of a “fool” goes much deeper than the image of the class clown or silly jokester. A “fool,” in scripture, is a person who is morally deficient.
A fool – one who is morally deficient – is a person who is not interested in understanding differences. As a Christ-follower, that is not a person you want to be.
Understanding Others’ Strengths: Is It Passive or Active?
While our natural default is to judge rather than to understand, God gives us what we need to be unnatural – to go against the fleshly grain in order to value differences in ourselves and others.
Proverbs 4:7 says, “Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (NIV). In other words, you play an active role in acquiring understanding. Rather than wait for understanding to descend upon you, God prompts you to seek it out. And further, there may be cost involved. The term “get” implies a purchase.
Consider the process you undergo when deciding to purchase a big-ticket item, such as a car. You save and plan. You research various makes and models. You look for a reputable retailer – one that offers the best arrangement. You take deliberate and intentional steps to acquire the auto you need and want.
So it is as you seek to understand others’ strengths. God’s desire is for you to be active, rather than passive, in the process – that is, you are to invest time, observe carefully, and weigh the facts in order to understand the strengths in those around you. The cost of understanding, writes Solomon, may be considerable.
You can only conclude that understanding others’ strengths is something God deeply values.
Choose to Understand Others’ Strengths
Will you shrug off differences with others as a problem – one you don’t want to wrestle with, since your interest lies in your own strengths or your own agenda?
Or will you seek to understand others by investing time, thought, and heart in discovering their strengths?
What you decide to do with differences can brand you as morally deficient or morally wise in God’s eyes. And ultimately your decision about understanding differences will divide you or unite you with people in your life.
One choice means isolation and death. One choice means understanding and life. The choice is yours.