The Perils of Standing Out

Aren’t you tired of fitting in and being ordinary? God never called you—or anyone else—to settle for an ordinary life. Just as He makes every snowflake beautifully unique, so He has a special design and purpose for each one of us.

Yet most people seem quite willing to blend into the crowd, to be politically correct and commonplace. Especially in today’s youth culture, peer pressure promotes mediocrity rather than brilliance. People who want to do something truly magnificent are ridiculed. The safest posture is to have the same grades, pay grade, or accomplishments as everyone else, because excelling might make others feel bad.

Innovation has always required a rare breed. Only a few people are willing to think outside the box of conventional wisdom. It has never been easy to be a Galileo, Edison, Einstein, or Steve Jobs. And today it seems harder than ever to be a groundbreaker, as the culture tries to push us toward conformity and mediocrity. Who dares to have the audacity to be above average?

In case you haven’t noticed, a socialistic spirit has been unleashed in our nation in recent years. It’s a badge of honor to say you’re in the “middle class,” but you’re certain to be vilified if you are part of the “1%.” The Occupy Wall Street protesters proudly declared, “We are the 99%!” What an abomination. Instead of achieving something extraordinary and uncommon, many people would rather fit in with the undistinguished masses of humanity.

In contrast, one of the key traits of biblical heroes was their willingness to stand out from the crowd…to be different…to be exceptional. Noah didn’t have any competitors in the ark-building industry. He stood alone, and he was mocked for it.

Joshua and Caleb stood alone among the spies who surveyed the Promised Land. Ten other spies said the land was impossible to conquer, and over a million Israelites sided with them against Joshua and Caleb. Yet these two brave men refused to back down.

David stood out as the only man in all of Israel who had the courage to fight Goliath. Despite the ridicule of his brothers and the skepticism of King Saul, David stepped out from the crowd and won a stunning victory.

On another occasion, David was mocked by his own wife, Michal, for “distinguishing” himself from the crowd and worshiping more passionately than anyone else. As the Ark of the Covenant was being brought into the city, Michal “saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart”  (2 Samuel 6:16).

When Michal later saw David, she mockingly said, “How the king of Israel distinguished himself today!”  (2 Samuel 6:20)

Many people, like Michal, don’t want you to distinguish yourself and stand out from the crowd. They will ridicule your passion and criticize your success. Like Michal, their own lives are barren, and they are threatened by your uninhibited creativity and freedom.

But if you’re going to be a world-changer, you must be willing to be different from your peers and distinguished from the crowd. You can’t be wrapped up in yourself, nor can you let the world squeeze you into its mold (Romans 12:2). And you’ll have to accept scorn as the inevitable lot in life of those who challenge the status quo and set a higher standard.

Like David, Daniel was willing to stand out. We’re told he “began distinguishing himself…because he possessed an extraordinary spirit”  (Daniel 6:3). Faced with tremendous pressure to conform, he and his friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego—refused to bend or bow.

Where are the heroes today? Where are the standouts—men and women courageous enough to rise up and distinguish themselves with an extraordinary life? The future hangs in the balance. Conformists may become popular, but they will never change the world.

 

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