By Steven Norris
Have you ever known a social chameleon? I am talking about that individual that seems to become a different person based on who is around them in a given moment. The person who will act one way around church folks and a completely different way around non-church folks. The person who wears one mask at work and a completely different one on the weekends.
I don’t know about you but it drives me crazy when folks will do whatever it takes to be accepted, even changing their beliefs or patterns of behavior just to fit in. It infuriates me when I catch myself compromising on my convictions to keep from rocking the boat or to be liked by a particular group of people I admire.
The desire to belong is a driving force behind many manipulative powers in this world. Marketing companies thrive on convincing consumers that if they just buy a particular product, drink a particular beverage, wear a particular brand of clothing, or vacation in a particular exotic location, then they will be one of the “happy and fulfilled ones.” Political groups bank on the idea that they can sway you to support a certain candidate because “you are really one of us and we are just like you.” Sporting teams and colleges thrive on fans identifying with the players on the field, regardless of whether the fans ever played the game or even attended the school they are supporting.
The Bible gives a good example of this in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. There, he describes how he “opposed Peter to his face.” He noticed that Peter acted one way towards the non-Jewish people when there weren’t any Jews around, eating together at a common table. However, “when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid.” Paul felt that this behavior was the height of hypocrisy and that Christ had come to break down the walls of separation and division.
Maturity (spiritual, relational, and developmental maturity) is cultivated in the difficult task of integration — of breaking down the segmenting walls to create a singular whole. Subdividing our lives into separate compartments and changing who we are to fit in the various circumstances is a sign of immaturity. I am not referring to the minor changes we make in speech or behavior based on the appropriate context, but the choice to become a completely different person in order to fit in.
In my own life, I am striving for integrity. I want to be one person, whether that is in the pulpit on Sunday morning, watching the game Sunday afternoon, or at a friend’s house Sunday night. I need to recognize that my doubts, fears, failures, victories, convictions, pet-peeves, habits, and relationships all commingle to make me who I am. I need not keep these locked away in hopes that I might curate a personae that others might accept. Instead, I need the creative power of God’s Spirit to break down the walls in my heart so that I might be one, unified, integrated whole.