I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
then the Lord will take me up.
We live in a culture that cheers the oddball. The person that marches to the tune of a different drummer. The one with interests and mannerisms that are outside of the accepted norm. Or do we?
The truth is, that’s a lie.
I was watching a Ted Talk on a university campus where the speaker was talking about the challenges of having ADHD and was also addressing the struggles of people on the autistic spectrum. At one point he referenced how he was “different” and added, “we are all different in our own way”, and the crowd cheered. Everybody cheers the ‘idea’ of being different but the reality is most people are not different. That is, they fit within the “socially accepted norm”.
People who truly are “different” are often ostracized; if not actively, passively. They are rejected and for all practical purposes placed “outside the camp”. Their own parents often struggle connecting with them and familial bonds tend to be frazzled.
Being different often means being lonely and alone. If you have a solid circle of good friends that you have known for years (versus those that always come and go), you are probably not different.
Truly different people typically do not have ordinary interests, personalities, mannerisms, and may struggle with empathy (an irony since “normal” people struggle with empathizing with them).
Truly different people are, well, different. This makes them prickly and odd companions. Connecting with someone who is truly “different” requires an abundance of compassion, mercy, and self-sacrifice. It requires we love like Jesus loves.
I write this because I get it. I am different. For much of my life I have been alone and lonely. When meeting new acquaintances, I’m asked those relational questions like, “are you into football or baseball?” Truth is I’d rather go to Dragon Con (though I haven’t been in over 20 years) than have premium tickets for both The Superbowl AND The World Series. The highlight for me in going to a Braves game in Atlanta is getting one of those massive chili dogs they sell in the stadium.
I’m the guy who longboards at 45 years old (only kids think that is cool, my peers just think it’s weird). I’m the guy who has a pet bearded dragon sleeping in his little bed every night two feet from my head. I’m the guy who considers time with my cat (when she jumps into bed with me) as “purr therapy”. I’m the guy whose “man cave” doesn’t have a pool table, minibar and sports memorabilia on the walls, but a tabletop gaming setup, and nerd-themed memorabilia on the walls. These are all references to my interests. I haven’t even mentioned how I struggle to relate to people and how, in truth, very few people even try to relate to me.
I write these things not to declare myself a victim or call for a pity party. I write these things because being among “the different” and knowing that fact (which is a blessing because most people who are different do not realize it which makes socialization even that much more difficult), there are some things in which I have an understanding and would make an appeal to my “normal” brethren.
While I walk to the beat of a different drummer, I RECOGNIZE IT and can tone it way back in order to not only function, but succeed socially (at least professionally). While I have, by God’s grace, achieved a good deal of success in life, it’s still rare to find people who actually want to connect with the person I am when not wearing my professional hat. That’s not to say I wear a mask, but I must engage people in a manner they find acceptable. It means I have to always meet them on their terms, and according to their normie interests. This I do, but it is lonely.
Again, I say this not to start a pity party but to finally get to my point. There are people who are the “truly different”, who are ostracized, marginalized, rejected, and even bullied. They are difficult to get to know. So much so that they often will have a harder time getting to know you even when you are trying! It is easy to push them away because they are difficult personalities. We do this from childhood. Our default is to reject, lack compassion and hold them in contempt…even our very brothers ands sisters in Christ who fit this description! God forbid!
Who are the “truly different” people in your life? If you do the difficult thing (and it is difficult!) and show these people love, acceptance, compassion and true friendship—you will likely be one of the ONLY PEOPLE IN THEIR LIVES who do so. To be that to someone else…is powerful!
P.S. If you are among the “truly different” don’t be deceived into thinking you don’t have a problem loving others who are also different. Marching to the beat of a different drummer doesn’t normally make connecting in difficult relationships any easier. The reality is, it tends to be even more difficult.