My greatest fear about aging is finding myself living an increasingly narrow life. I see it in my 96 year-old mother-in-law. The memory care and assisted living facility Elda lives in is full of people whose lives have narrowed considerably, and are a shadow of what they used to be.
And it’s not just with the elderly with their ever-increasing physical limitations. I see some people my age and much younger living lives that are slowly closing in on them relationally, and emotionally.
I see some of that tendency in myself, where I resist growing as a person because to grow is to change, and I’ve gotten way too comfortable with the status quo.
It raises the question then of what can we do to keep growing as a person into old age, where we resist the natural forces of life that close in on us.
I propose that the antidote to this issue is to foster relationships with people different from ourselves.
Relationships with people younger or older than ourselves. With those richer or poorer than us. With people more educated, or less educated that we are. Those of a different gender, or those with a marital status different from our own.
Let me give you two examples.
The first. Different race, a different culture, a different age.
Story of Boo – Arsenio Hall. During the time of the Rodney King incidents. People at church distancing themselves.
Example no. 2. Wilbur, who came to my office one day. Compares to Terry, who said to Janet, “I can’t figure John out.”
Here’s what I learned from these two stories, and others about my relationships with people not like me.
Connecting mostly with people on the basis of our similarities is self-limiting. It confirms our biases. Commonality may help in initially connecting with someone, in a relationship. But it can limit the depth of our relationship moving forward. The thread of reaching out to people not like ourselves is woven throughout the New Testament.
Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Jesus and his disciples who not all the same. Fisherman. Tradesman. At least one tax collector.
Paul and the Gentiles.
Other people different from me are more interesting than me focusing on my thoughts and experiences that are similar to others.
I learn from other people different from me.
I appreciate how good I have it when I see sometimes how poorly people different from me live. It greatly encourages me.
I become a better person when I incorporate the Godly values of people different from me. But I have to get to know them to understand what their values are.
My view of God is enriched when I see the character of God reflected in people not like me. It makes me appreciate God more.
What about you? What’s your take-away from today’s show?
I’d appreciate any comments in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes. Or you can send them in an email to me, at email@example.com.
Here’s the main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence
Be thankful for people in my life who are not like me, because they broaden my world, for they reflect the character of God in their own unique way, making me appreciate HIM more.
Here’s what you can do in response to today’s show
Consider including in your circle of relationships people different from you, and see what God teaches you through them.
Ask God to show you how to be more winsome, more attractive, more intriguing and inviting to others. Ask God to help you reflect more of his character to people not like yourself. To be more of person people are thankful for.
Take a pause and reflect on someone very different from you, and ask, “could it be that God has placed this person in my life to sharpen me, smooth over my rough edges, and otherwise mold me into the person he created me to be.”
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. And to be thankful for the people in our lives who are different from us.
You can do this, I know you can. Because You Were Made for T.H.I.S.: Relationships that Transcend our natural tendency to focus on self, and that Honor and Inspire others, built on Self-less sacrifice.
Our Relationship Quote of the Week
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
~ Galatians 3: 28
That’s all for today. See you next week. Bye for now.
Hi John, i found this to be very helpful and true in my life. the african american neighbor i’ve gotten to know well and the muslim prisoner i meet with have both greatly enriched my life, and taught me many things i wouldn’t have known otherwise.
very well done, keep up the good work brother!
your friend from sanford and the ptm conference this year
Hey Barry, Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your encouraging words!
John, my work recently addressed this topic as well and talked about developing friends who are not just like us. I realized that most of my closest friends are very much like me. I have recently developed some friendships with some single people and people much younger than me who are Christian, but many other differences are evident and we are learning from one another.
Thanks for your feedback, Kim. It sounds like you work for an enlightened employer. I’m glad to hear you are learning from people different from you. It’s another way of “iron sharpening iron” that the Bible talks about.