Different is Good

It’s funny how life’s personal failures and disappointments help clear the fog from your eyes. Dale Carnegie said, ”You develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”

It was my personal search for significance that led me to discover two things. Firstly, that real significance is found in your identity in Christ. His life in you makes you complete and gives purpose for living. Secondly, that people see things differently because they observe and determine life from their personality and temperament perspective.

That’s the reason that opposites attract. I have seen this play out hundreds of times during my counseling career. When I would do pre-marital counseling one the first questions I would ask a couple is, “Why do you think you are right for each other?” Often I would get the answer, “We are just alike in every area.” Now that would always throw up a red flag. I would then go into my speech that opposites naturally attract because they help complete each other. The last thing you want to do is marry someone just like you.

Even when a couple would not indicate that they were alike in every area, I would still give them the speech that opposites are usually good for a marriage. That would setup my next major point which was, “Just because someone is different, doesn’t mean they are wrong.”

I have been married to Brenda, the love of my life, for many years. We married just out of high school. Nearly half of that time I didn’t understand the value of us being different. Early on I discovered she views life differently than me. She is highly organized, exact, deliberate and practical. All the clothes in her side of the closet are folded, properly stacked, color coordinated and arranged in seasonal order. On my side of the closet the clothes are described as hanging and stuffed in drawers. They only get folded when she folds them after washing.

With her desk, everything is organized and the desk is primarily clean. With my desk, don’t touch the mess because I know where everything is located. Maybe I am giving the impression that I am a slob, no not really, I’m just not hung up on needing to have everything, down to the last detail, categorized and organized. I like things orderly but not just the way she does.

If you wanted to put a label on the way we see life, Brenda would be considered as one who is Decisive Orderly and I am Spontaneous Flexible. A Decisive Orderly looks at someone on the Spontaneous Flexible side and says, “You are indecisive, a procrastinator, and you don’t have any goal in life but to play. A Spontaneous Flexible person would say to a Decisive Orderly person, “You are wound too tight and far too serious about life. Loosen up, let your hair down and have fun, you are going to have a stroke.”

Over the years, Brenda and I have moved toward the middle. I am more ordered and organized than earlier in our marriage and she became much more flexible, and has even had a few episodes of pure spontaneity. (Ha! Ha!)
Trying to change someone who doesn’t think and approach life like you is a major misuse of your time. Rather than trying to change them, try looking at life from their perspective. Let me give you another personal example.

Early in our marriage I might suggest to Brenda on Wednesday, “Let’s take this weekend off and go to the Tennessee Mountains for a couple of days.” I would immediately get a response from her that she couldn’t possibly go because she had do the laundry, clean the house, wash the clothes, etc. I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t just break away from the routine and go.

It took me quite a few years to learn how selfish I had been. I was only thinking of how I felt. I failed to understand that her perspective on decision making was just as important as my view. I then began to look at life through her eyes, attempting to think from her perspective. I learned I needed to give her time to make a decision. I also learned that spontaneity may be good occasionally, but most of the time that would cause me to make decisions too quickly without getting all the facts and evaluating the consequences.

One of the key elements of being a good leader, a good friend, a good wife/husband or parent is to learn to look at life from their perspective. Don’t just assume that they are naturally disagreeable. Ask yourself the question, how do they look at life? Do they make quick decisions or are they slow to act, not jumping at the first urge? Are they more moved by their emotions or must they have all the facts, even the little details before they take action? Are you giving them too many options and too many facts? Are they a visual person or must they see details.

Think for a moment, do you like it when someone really gets who you are? Does it cause you to feel valued and loved when someone looks you in the eye and knows where you are coming from? When we learn to listen from that person’s perspective and view of life, then a real connection is made.

What’s my point? Being different isn’t right or wrong, it’s just different. God made us that way. I am thankful for my careful, orderly, detail oriented wife. And I am pretty sure she is thankful for her visionary, creative, spontaneous husband. We have both learned from each other and have met in the middle. Maybe that’s the reason we are still desperately in love after 45 years of marriage.

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