Fitting In or Being Yourself?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to world events and daily life

Children are capable of much more than they are often given credit for. And some children have made great contributions to humanity. You might have heard of children accomplishing things usually left to more mature persons. Mozart was a child prodigy. There have been successful child mathematicians, athletes, and writers.

Each individual has his or her own abilities and talents. Each expresses them differently. My piano teacher once told me that she thought everyone was a genius in his or her way. It's true, we each have qualities that are unique to ourselves -- expressed differently and originally. But sometimes it seems as if our individuality disappears as we grow up. Somewhere along the line comes the desire to conform to the tastes, wills, desires, and looks of others -- the desire to fit in.

Yet this fitting in often limits us and hides individuality. There's the preschooler who wants toys just like his best friend's; the sister who wishes she could act like her brother because she thinks he's smarter; the teenagers who just have to have the same brand of jeans. Perhaps we're still seeing this in adult life: the colleague who wishes she had our job, or the boss who demands we conform to dishonest and unethical behavior in order to advance in the company.

So where does individuality come from? The Bible teaches that we are made in God's image and likeness (see Genesis 1:27). This would mean that we could not be made in each other's image and likeness. To be made in God's image and likeness means to be made spiritually, in His perfection, His wholeness, His completeness. And this we must express without limitation. Why? Because God is infinite. He's eternal. He's immortal. He's illimitable. And so are His children -- you and I. God must be expressed in unending ways. And that's why we each express Him individually. No two of us are ever exactly alike.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science Church, gained a revolutionary concept of individuality. Her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures elucidates the concept in saying this: "Man's individuality is not material" (p. 285). This means we must look elsewhere than to human situations to find our individuality. It is spiritually that you represent, or re-present, all that God is. It would be impossible to represent only a portion of God; He must be represented by all good. Thus the necessity for each one of us to see that we express Him infinitely and individually and distinctly.

Christian Science is based directly on the teachings of Christ Jesus. What he had to say confirms the truth of our inherent individuality. He taught, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Letting our light shine is letting our spiritual individuality be expressed, glorifying God, and showing forth the spiritual source of our identity.

I got a better understanding of all of this when I was studying piano seriously. It always amazed me how four or five pianists could play the same piece, and all play it differently. For years I attempted to imitate the way I heard others playing. Eventually, however, I learned to practice expressing my own God-given individuality as a pianist. I was no longer afraid to play a piece or a passage differently than someone else. Through much prayer I was impelled to let God express Himself in me. I'll never forget the time I finished playing a particular piece of music for my professor. She said, "That was just beautiful. I wouldn't have played it that way. But still, it was beautiful!"

There is a way for us to express ourselves and feel assured that it is right and good. It is through gaining a deeper, more spiritual sense of God. It is by understanding that our individuality is given to us of God. This individuality is so distinct that it is not lost through contact with others. And it can be found in true conformity -- conforming to Him.

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