Is “Diversity” really about Differences?

I am a person who doesn’t like to be around people who are like me, but instead different.  I have always sought out friendships and experiences that expand my understanding and love for people, and I’m often marveled at how our heavenly Father beautifully crafted us together.  So when I first began Loyola University’s career development class, I felt like a fawn frolicking amongst a meadow of diversity.  My class represented a variety of religious beliefs, nationalities, sex, ethnicity, professions and talents.    But as the class came to an end, I found myself less amazed by our differences, and more in tune with our commonalities – our personhood – the very life, breath, and heart of God’s creation.

Our final assignment was a demonstration from each student expressing his/her personal life path and addressing the question of identity, “Who am I?”  Sharing of the “self” is not easy or comfortable for many.  However, each student was given the creative liberty to demonstrate meaningful moments, persons, or experiences that have helped shape their identity.   In my personal journey, for example, I’ve come to realize that my life isn’t really about “who am I?”  For me it’s about, “knowing who He is – knowing Jesus.”  Instead of what I know or do, it’s about Who I know and what He does.  It has especially been through my struggles and weaknesses that God has proven faithful and strong.

My peers expressed themselves through drama, sand art, music, poetry, pottery, film, media, and scrapbooks.  It was a beautiful moment of how sharing of the “self” causes all other differences to become less definitive of “who we are.”  As my classmates grew increasingly comfortable sharing their stories with one another, I witnessed a group of people become “one” — I believe just as God describes in 1 Cor. 12:12-14.  It wasn’t our stories of success, achievement, or credentials that united us, but it was our openness about life’s failures, hurts, and mistakes.  To be open and allow others to see “you” — each one a masterpiece, yet also so human, fragile, and dependent on Christ — unveils all differences.  We are what I like to call, “commonly different.”

It was as though God intentionally pulled pieces from his human fabric – my peers — from across the globe to weave together one majestic tapestry.  Each thread so unique and exquisite, yet when hidden or separated, unable to fulfill God’s common purpose and good.

As counselors, I believe it’s so very important that we embrace diversity and extend compassion to people from all walks of life.  But, beyond diversity, are hearts and souls … the highest calling for Pastoral Counselors.

3 thoughts on “Is “Diversity” really about Differences?

  1. I like your description of how we are “commonly different” or how we uniquely express our sameness. It would drive me nuts to be around someone exactly like me all day long . . . wait a minute . . . I AM around someone like me all day long! Me! Okay – never mind. What is important that I gathered from your piece is that we embrace our similarities, our differences, while knowing we are one within the heaven that God has made.

  2. Yes! Yes! Focusing on differences alone can either build bridges (openness) or barriers (resistance) to our unity in Christ. As a whole, I see differences as beautiful, but there are times when they can be frustrating for many of us, if that’s all we see. Recognizing that we are “commonly different” or that we “uniquely express our sameness,” moves our thoughts away from “comparing” (objectively or destructively) or “complaining” to understanding that we are so much more alike than different and that we were made to “compliment or fit together as one.” This scripture keeps coming to mind this morning: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phil 2:1-4 (NIV)

  3. Unity in diversity is exactly what Jesus describes. Unfortunately, a lot of people twist that “unity” concept and attempt to make it unity by conformity and try to change other people. I see a lot of Christians trying to change others by forcing Jesus on them rather than embracing their differences and loving them. Big difference between “forcing” and “embracing.”

    Differences actually scare a lot of people in this world. But Jesus does NOT want us to let go of who he created EACH one of us to be, but embrace those differences through who He is. We will find in embracing each other through Him that we are not so different after all. That we are all created by Him in the image of Him.

    I view the beginning of our lives as a huge, beautiful, majestic piece of ceramic sculpture that God has created with His very own Hands. Over the course of our lives, that sculpture can become chipped and broken, lying in pieces at our feet. Some people have a catastrophic life event that actually smashes that sculpture to smithereens, leaving nothing but shards and itty bitty pieces. But if you allow Him, God can take each one of those broken potsherds and in the course of His own timing, create a beautiful and majestic mosaic. And I would say that mosaic at the end would be much more breathtakingly beautiful than the elegant sculpture at the beginning of your life!

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