This post is part of a series about living well in groups. They are a series of meditations inspired by a chapter in the New Testament. It is Pauls first letter to the Corinthians chapter 12. Verse 7, in the New International Version of the Bible says,
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
One of the big problems with living in groups is accommodating people’s uniqueness. People are so different; how can they understand each other if they are different? Is the only hope that everyone conforms to an external order that no one is happy with? I think there is a way forward and it is based on something that might seem strange: intimacy can come about from appreciating difference
Here’s an example from my life.
Many years ago I was part of a Christian youth work organisation. As part of a training course we used to demonstrate listening with a volunteer from the group in front of the training group. On one occasion I was doing the demonstration and asked the young lady who volunteered to talk about something that she would like to talk about. Her answer: Cake decorating. Let’s say that I was, and am, enough of a stereotypical WASP male that I have not the remotest interest in cake decorating. And I didn’t really get clear on what it was about cake decorating that interested her, it seemed to be something to do with its tininess – that’s as close as I could get.
The interesting thing is that in those few minutes our relationship deepened. Through talking about a topic that one of us had almost no knowledge of and absolutely no interest in. It was through exploring this difference that we developed a deeper relationship. And this affected the group as well, they were attentive, more in touch with themselves – and the young lady and me as well.
A relationship can deepen by appreciating individuality and differences. We value our friends for their quirks not despite them (well, some of the quirks). Without individual uniqueness the friendship wouldn’t be what it is – and wouldn’t have the distinctive quality it has.
All of which means that it is the differences that make the group. Our uniqueness enriches the group, and so does the uniqueness of everyone else.
Take a moment to stop and think of a few of your friends. What is the uniqueness that you appreciate about them?