From Jim O'Brien
December 21, 2018

Compulsion to Conform

Hi Friend,

My wife has a book entitled, "Everyone is Normal Until You Get to Know Them." It's a bittersweet concept. Bitter because all of us have baggage (as we say), sweet because there is no need to feel inferior-at least to other humans.

It's also overwhelming because we are offered entrance into the very family of God-who is flawless. We are told to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48)

Maybe that's why one of the most interesting ironies of human nature is the compulsion to conform to other humans. Most people have enough weaknesses to create a natural resistance to imitation.

When I was in college a psychology professor told us to imagine looking at a classroom of 25 students. He said that 2 of the 25 would spend time in a mental hospital, 4 would be profoundly neurotic, 4 deeply neurotic, 4 mildly neurotic and only 8 to 10 would be fairly normal.

It's gotten worse over the years. Today about one-quarter of the adult population suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. That's more than 57 million people!

Over 2 million adults were admitted to a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center last year. And the day before they were admitted to the institution, some of them were passing you on the highway driving a car or big truck.

Add to this the financial indebtedness and serious health issues most people face on a daily basis. For example, the average student leaves college today with a debt of $32,000!

Okay, enough of statistical bad news! I've made my point-why would any of us want to be like everybody else?

The truth is, if you want to be like everybody else then you'll get what everybody else gets.

There was a psychological study once that demonstrated the benefit of having an unusual name. Having a name that is, well, peculiar, was a factor that actually favored success. The author cited the name Elvis as an example that helped the singer become great. If his parents had named him Bill or Bob he would probably have worked the checkout counter at Kroger and driven a used Ford.

There is deep truth in the idea of our unique identity in God. The King James Version of the Bible uses the term "peculiar" when it refers to God's people. Moses quotes God as saying, "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." (Exodus 19:5 KJV) In other words, you are special to God above the crowd because of your lack of conformity. That's a peculiar characteristic you can enjoy.

The thought is expressed at least 5 times in the Bible. The contemporary versions render the word peculiar as "treasured people" as in Deuteronomy where Moses says, "Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession!" (Deut. 14:2 NIV)

Being thought of as "different" isn't so bad after all.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien