The cliché “birds of the same feather flock together” has been around for centuries and it captures the reality that we tend to gather with and connect to people similar to us. While we are often most comfortable with people who are like us, we benefit and we grow when we are in relationships with people who are not like us.
Differences challenge us and broaden our understanding. They help us discover our own blind spots and adjust our approaches. They help see the world through different perspectives.
Are differences challenging? Absolutely! God uses community to mature us, and often the things that mature are not comfortable. The things that grow us are not always easy. Here are three places where we must have people around us who are different than us:
1. Leadership Teams
The book Team of Rivals has been read and studied by presidents, CEOs, and leaders from all spheres of life. The book chronicles Abraham Lincoln’s move to bring his opponents to his cabinet and leverage their different skills and abilities to accomplish great things. Lincoln was attracted to the differences, knowing that those differences could be leveraged for a greater mission.
Leadership teams consisting of the same gender, the same cultural background, and the same personality type are going to be limited in their perspective. Leadership teams who are filled with the same type of people will agree much and accomplish little.
God designed marriage and He designed the differences in our spouses. Because we are different from one another, marriage is deeply sanctifying. God uses marriage to expose us to blind spots we did not even know existed before we were married. It is important to understand because without this view of marriage we can resent the differences. When we understand God designed the differences, we are much more likely to embrace them as means for our own growth.
Kaye and I are deeply different, and the Lord has used her to grow me—though a ton of growing still needs to happen. I am more compassionate, more understanding of others, and more fun because of her (though I still don’t like board games).
A church is to live in unity, not in uniformity. A wise leader once told me that a healthy church is filled with people who celebrate when their preferences are not always met – when the music is not their preferred style for example – because it means the Lord has pulled different people together. A church is most beautiful when the diversity points to the unity, when people who are different from one another rejoice that they are united by the common reality of Jesus. If all the people in a church are the same, Jesus is not put on display as the common foundation.
If all the people in a church are the same, the people get a very limited view of God’s Kingdom and miss out on the joy of community with believers who can help them grow. A watching world is not in awe of uniformity, but unity in the midst of diversity makes people wonder what is it that unifies. For a church, it is the good news of Jesus.
We grow and benefit from people who are different than us. The differences make us better in leadership, in marriage, and in church.