Are You Willing to Not Fit In?

When I was in grade school, I never felt like I fit in. That feeling followed me into my teen and adult years. I’d love to say this problem no longer exists now that I’ve hit mid-life, that I am now secure enough in who Christ made me to be that the desire to fit in no longer plagues me. That would be a lie.

Certainly, I am more confident, but the desire to fit in still lingers and often rears its ugly head in social situations.

Over the years, I did adapt to not fitting in. At some point, I even began to seek out ways to emphasize that aspect that seemed to define me. If others are doing something, I look for ways to avoid doing exactly the same thing. From clothing and accessories to exercise and eating to social interaction, something inside me now purposes to go against the flow, even if only slightly, of what the majority does.

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Both Right and Wrong

In 1 Corinthians 9:22, Paul says that “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” In other words, he tried to find common ground with people in order to bring them to Christ. Of course, this does not mean sinning, but it does mean getting involved in people’s lives and being authentic with them.

So, in the sense that my going against the flow sometimes causes disconnection with people I could influence, I am wrong in my approach. In fact, doing so has led to missing out on some significant witnessing opportunities. For that, I truly am sorry.

On the other hand, John 15:18-27 clearly indicates that to a great extent, Christ followers won’t fit in with the culture surrounding them. In other words, we must be in the world but not of the world (Romans 12:2). Jesus certainly set the example for us in this area by spending time with and ministering to those who needed Him most and who were often social outcasts, but He did not let them change Him.

When my intentions fall into the realm of wanting to remain separate from the material and fleshly focuses of the world, my approach to not conform and follow the crowd then seems wise.

Resist the Call of the World

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Perhaps both of these approaches need to exist. Maybe both looking for commonalities and connections need to exist alongside being an outsider. In my quest to find that balance, I realize that the outsider status must still dominate; otherwise, my impact as I connect and care becomes less effective.

Let’s look deeper at John 15:18-27 to hopefully understand the importance of an outsider status.

Being an outsider, feeling like you don’t fit in with the crowd (culture), can indicate progress towards becoming more Christ-like (v 18). Realizing that Christ chose you to be an outsider can keep feelings of rejection and aloofness from affecting your walk with Him (v 19).

What’s more, knowing that people aren’t really rejecting you but are actually reacting to their fear of the unknown creates a motivational steadfastness to perhaps amplify your outsider status (vv 20-21). You see, knowing Jesus creates a responsibility that so many people want to avoid because it means increasingly living as an outsider.

Knowing Jesus can mean breaking the death grip that the need to belong and be accepted by the world has. But a dying to self must happen, and this scares people. So, many instead choose to succumb to the call of the world and seek to eliminate any feeling of an outsider status (v 22).

Even with evidence of a better way, hate of Christ’s ways exists without any real cause except a desire to avoid the truth of Christ (vv 23-25).

Outsider Victory

God’s Holy Spirit reveals truth that reveals Jesus (v 26). As His Spirit dwells within us, our outsider status feels more and more like home, like a place of safety, peace and joy. And in that, we discover the courage to bravely tell others about the Jesus who welcomes outsiders. In other words, we become better able to care and connect in an authentic way.

DISCUSSION: What else does scripture say about how Christ followers must interact and exist in the world?

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12 Replies to “Are You Willing to Not Fit In?”

  1. I think one of the finest lines to walk is how much is too much world, and how much is not enough influence? Does that make sense? i want to influence culture/those I come in contact with, but at the same time I really need to be careful with whom I associate and spend a lot of time with. I don't want to stick out like a sore thumb, but I also don't want to be "one of them" either. UGH!! It is such a fine line.

    1. Makes perfect sense. That struggle is why I wrote the post. Just realizing how tough – impossible on our own – it is to find that balance increases my awareness of how much I need God’s Word & His Holy Spirit. So helpless to resist otherwise.

  2. Kari,
    I do not believe I have ever fit in; that I am like others. It has not bothered me. I do try to impact people's lives as much as I can. I look for ways to do that. I try to reach out to those that seem to be ones that don't fit in; to help them not feel left out. In addition to interacting with the normal in crowd I think the Bible teaches us that we are not to shy away from the ones that are looked upon as different, outcasts, undesirable, or misfits. I think the major way we affect people is by interacting with them and if we are not willing to do so then we will have a tough time carrying God's word to them.

    1. Two points stick out in what you said, Mark, that help make understanding the balance more clear for me. First, the idea of deliberately reaching out to others, especially those who struggle to fit in and might have even given up. Second, the power of interaction. We must be willing to build relationship with other people. As we relate to others and seek them out for connection, they will find a belonging in God's family. Even more powerful is the fact that this belonging is FOR EVERYONE. Good thoughts, Mark!

  3. Wow. as soon as I read the opening line I flashed back…ya, I never fit in. The “good” girl with long hair and long dresses…it just made me TOO different. My mom’s list of don’t dos was so long that I ended up missing out on some important developmental interactions such as 4-H. Everything was church based, and that gets very narrow. So yes, I still struggle with wanting to fit in. I also know the dangers of that. When I was in the prodigal period I tried the “if you can’t beat them join them” experiment. All I have from that are bad memories. So I try to keep a balance between enjoying life, sharing my faith openly, and growing comfortable in who I am. I know I am God’s and the HE smiles about me and loves me even when I mess up. So I just keep doing the best I can with HIS help each day..that is enough.. I don’t have to be perfect at it. God knows my heart…that’s what is important. Thanks Kari!!

    1. Sometimes we need that trip down memory lane to helps us gain perspective, don't we? I sure am having a continual trip there lately, but more on that in upcoming posts perhaps. Balance is key, and scripture makes it clear that we are supposed to enjoy life. I think that's one key way we can connect with people in a way that leads to sharing Christ. Doing our best and knowing that He truly knows our hearts is all we can do along with always striving toward righteousness. Knowing that I can mess up and get back up again with a clean slate has given me tremendous peace to keep trying and keep moving forward. Love grace!

  4. Great thoughts Kari. God want's us to be apart of this world but not do the things of this world. Meaning to connect and build relationships with those who are not believers but not to participate in the life style they might be living. I have found showing my faith through example really allows people to see Jesus through me.

    1. Thanks, Dan. Connect, build relationships & set a godly example. That is the goal of the Christian life. That is how we show that we love and that Christ is truly in us.

  5. I think a lot depends on why one doesn't fit in. If you just don't care about the things that others care about, that's one thing. But if you're just socially awkward, that's another thing. I think social grace and getting along with other people is a positive trait that you can use.

    1. I think it's both, actually. I feel like we can and should have differences in interests, tastes, etc. but that we should also extend grace to those who struggle socially. Social grace is a learned trait, and not all kids get a fair shake in that area. Many people don't know that they don't have it. The more I think about it, the more I realize how big of an issue this is. I guess the main point I wanted to make is being willing to do what God wants no matter what, even if it makes you not fit in with others socially or whatever.

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