Social researcher Hugh Mackay, in an interview of a member of the most recent generation, which he describes as the ‘options generation’, was warned by the interviewee towards the end of the session, ‘Don’t try and make any generalisations about us.’* This young adult expressed most powerfully a desire within many of us – to be seen as individuals, unique and without peer. We all felt it to some degree last week when confronted with the National Church Life Survey – the pressure to be squeezed into someone else’s mould. And none of us liked it.
Yet the reality is that we do allow ourselves to be squeezed into a mould. For all our bleating about individuality, we need points of similarity with and connection to others. It is these which allow communication to occur, and for us to engage in meaningful ways in community. Mackay reports of this young female that she spoke the same language, dressed similarly and bore many of the same attitudes of others her age, despite her keenness not to be seen as part of a group.
This cry for being seen and accepted as an individual is a cry for freedom – albeit in a different form than others that have echoed through the ages. In a world where the population approaches 5 billion, part of life’s meaning is found in the unique contribution that we feel we make to the world. Should we be pressed into some mould, our sense of identity and meaning is taken away.
But we do well to consider the moulds that we allow ourselves to be squeezed into: the number of hours worked just to pay off the mortgage; the pressure to do that bit of extra work just in the hope of “staying ahead” in the race for a better position; the various activities we rush our children around to, trying to push them that little bit further; our silence in the face of certain decisions being made, lest we show ourselves to be somehow ‘out of step’ with others. We consciously and sub-consciously make decisions to conform every day.
We do well to consider afresh the words of Jesus: “when the Son has set you free, you shall be free indeed!” When we consider the unconditional love of God, the radical and free forgiveness which is ours, we realise that we do not need to prove ourselves to others in order to find meaning and purpose. We are pleased to be conformed to the image of Jesus, knowing that such brings out our individuality more fully.
We are all individuals, known and loved by God for the unique expression we are of His creativity. Should we truly grasp this, our lives would be radically transformed.
May 27, 2001
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