Last week I talked about my tendency to be more cognitive than emotive in my faith. I will no doubt remain that way for the rest of the cruise. I talked about the importance of knowing our God-given creative genius so that we can better understand how God wants to distinctively use us in redeeming his world.
I now want to deal with the danger of elevating our own unique strengths to be the standard for everyone else. Most of us do it all the time without being aware of it. We expect others to see the whole world through the unique set of eyes that God has given us. Then, when others don’t view life like we do, it is easy for us to become critical of them.
Let me share a personal example of how this works in me.
I look at highly emotive Christians and think they are crazy. It is easy for me to find faults in their spiritual formation because they are so easily “tossed to and fro” in their spiritual trajectory. I simply don’t understand how someone can walk into a worship service and immediately raise their hands, fall to their knees, or sway back and forth the moment they get to their seat. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
Before all of you write me off as a cold and calloused person…keep reading.
Here in lies the trap: we all tend to project our strengths onto others. We think everyone should grow in, see, or experience God the way we do. If not, they are clearly wrong! Of course, we don’t say that, but it does show in the way we treat others. We recently saw this lived out in the way people responded differently to Covid.
I have seen it in Spiritual Gifts for most of my adult life. We project our own gifting on others. Your Spiritual Gifts dramatically impact the way you view the church. It colors everything you see in ministry. It took me a few years as a pastor to figure this out. I had people come to me and say, “I think we as a church should do/be_____” (you fill in the blank). I eventually learned to respond, “I think that is a great idea, when are you going to start and how can we equip you to do it?!” Most of the time, they weren’t satisfied, because they felt everyone in the church should see it the way they do. We call it gift projection, and you can see why.
People used to say, aren’t you glad everyone in the world isn’t like you and I used to think, “No actually, I think the world would be a lot better off if they were”. Obviously, I didn’t say this but I thought it. However, after some significant breaking in my life, that is a time of having to accept that I am NOT as much as I once thought, I have come to see that God is so creative and that is an element of his beauty. Just look at nature around you: the variety of birds, flowers, sunsets, trees, fish, insects, animals, and yes, humans. No two are alike.
There is a big difference between owning your own strengths and projecting these on others, but it can be a tendency within all of us. Let me encourage you to do as I am learning to do. I thank God for the way he has wired me and is giving me wisdom and perspective to fully comprehend how I can be who he has created me to be without expecting others to be JUST LIKE ME. I take a moment and dwell on the other person’s strengths that allow them to act so differently from me. I fully embrace how their differences stand in contrast to mine without trying to resolve one being better than the other, just different. And I thank God for the way he wired them.
Now, I am glad that people see life much differently than I do. My life is given to coaching them in their strengths, not judging them in their weaknesses.