Scripture teaches us that social conformity is not our goal as a child of God. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how His ways will really satisfy you.” (Romans 12:2)
However, God’s directive to preserve our individuality is one of the hardest challenges we face. The pressure to conform to cultural norms is constant. Social pressure to conform to the loudest voices we hear, and to care what other people think, begins from the moment we are born.
In the book Whisper:How to Hear the Voice of God, author Mark Batterson writes: “Not many of us sell our souls to the devil, but many of us sell our souls to the culture. Instead of defining success for ourselves, we let the culture define it for us. Instead of daring to be different, we conform to the pattern of this world. Why? We let our culture have the loudest voice.”
God dares us to be different. God invites us to be the person we were born to be, encouraging us to follow our God-given dreams and using our God-given talents so that we can best serve God.
In a study performed on children ages 3 to 5 years old, 98 percent of all children tested scored in the highest category for creative thinking (individuality). Five years later, only 32 percent of them tested in the highest category for creative thinking. Five years after that, their number had fallen to 10 percent. Why? It is believed that our culture, unintentionally or otherwise, supports and rewards conformity. Sadly, in the process we lose touch with who we really are, we learn to distrust or under-value the God-given gifts each of us possesses, and we lose sight of our calling and what we really want.
In other words, we worry way too much about what other people think. Worrying about what others think of us is a warning sign that we may not be worrying enough about what God thinks. In his book Mark Batterson suggests, “It’s the fear of people that keeps us from hearing and heeding the voice of God.” He argues that we are taught, innocently or otherwise, to let the desires and expectations of others override the desires God has put in our hearts — and the expectations that God has for us.
From cradle to grave it seems, the pressure is on us to be “normal” in a worldly sense and “prove it” by peer approval. Yet there is nothing about Jesus that was “normal,” nor did Jesus prioritize what others thought over what pleases God.
The salvation that Jesus offers us is more than forgiveness. Salvation includes freedom from the worldly straight-jacket called “culture” into which we are placed. Our salvation begins when God’s voice is the loudest voice we hear and His is the approval we are after. And that happens only when we listen for his voice among all noise and seek to understand what God desires of us.