The Altar of the Unique
By Jesse Pingenot in Student
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind (1 Pet 3:8).
And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring’ (Acts 17:26-28).
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone (1 Cor 12:4-6).
As the ancient wisdom of Pokémon says, “I want to be the very best like no one ever was.”
This is something I can personally identify with. I am an extremely achievement-oriented person. I am the youngest of three brothers. My older brothers are both brilliant. I am the only person in my family without some form of doctorate. I grew up very much in my brothers’ shadows.
There is something in me that needs, desperately, to achieve. To be better than someone else. To be noticed.
So many of us have an internal drive to be unique in some way. Maybe you like to be the best dressed. Maybe you like to be the fastest runner. Or the best K:D ratio in Call of Duty. Or the best player of Settlers of Catan. Chances are, you have something that you pride yourself on being the best at.
Or maybe you pride yourself on being a non-conformist. Let all the others be exactly alike; you’re different and you know it. And you think that uniqueness makes you better. I know that feeling. I’ve been there, too.
“I don’t think I’m better than them!” you might protest. But think about it: how do you describe them? When you talk about the people you’re not conforming with, are you treating them as equals with simply a different view? Or are you talking down about them, deriding them for what you see as conforming?
I’ve never known a non-conformist who spoke well of the conformists. I certainly didn’t.
Uniqueness is an idol.
Uniqueness is the altar at which I worship myself. I offer up sacrifices to feel better about myself. I give up money to be better dressed than everyone else. I give up time and energy to become the fastest runner. I give up time from more productive areas to become the best at Call of Duty. I give up social acceptance to be a non-conformist. And so on.
Why do I make these sacrifices? Because I believe it will elevate me above other people. And that makes me feel good.
God made you unique and has a unique call on your life. There will only ever be one you, and God knows you thoroughly and loves you thoroughly.
But you are not the only unique person. You are not the only uniquely made person with a unique call from God on your life. Everyone is unique in God’s eyes, and that means that being unique doesn’t make you special, and it doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Because they’ve got that going for them, too.
You cannot worship your uniqueness and worship Christ. You cannot serve two masters: you will always hate one and love the other. So if you want to worship Christ, you need to stop being your own master. You need to drop your pretenses of being unique.
This is all part of being a living sacrifice, of taking up your cross and following Christ: that you stop serving yourself and start serving God.
How do you do this? How do you stop worshiping your own uniqueness?
Catch yourself. When you find yourself striving to be better than someone, let him or her win. When you find yourself comparing yourself with others, turn it instead to building them up in your mind. Take every thought captive.
Let us take, for example, if you like to be the best dressed. There is nothing wrong with looking good, and you don’t have to start dressing like a bum. But maybe start focusing on how good other people look rather than trying to look better than them. And let them know you see how well they put their outfit together.
If you’re an athlete, you don’t have to let other people win. After all, you are competing. And competition can be healthy, encouraging everyone who participated to develop his or her skills and athleticism. But whether you win or lose, you should praise your competitors. They worked hard and gave it everything they had. They’ve pushed themselves, developed themselves. Let them know you appreciate it. You’re no better than they are.
Speak life to other people. Try to see them the way God sees them. Authentically value them. Take every thought captive, and don’t let yourself compare other people’s value with your own. God loves you and He loves them. So love them as much as you love yourself!
All views expressed on this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A., U.S. Missions, and The General Council of the Assemblies of God.