Don’t settle for normal

I posted a joke on Facebook that went like this –

The other day, the kids and I were talking and someone said “Dad, misery loves company.”

This is only true if you’re extroverted.

If you’re an introvert like me, ‘company’ could literally be the source of our misery.

One of my daughters didn’t understand the reference, so I explained to her that there are people out there who take comfort in the fact that whatever they’re going through, as long as they’re not alone in their suffering, it somehow makes them feel better. They could be going through terrible wars or famine or sickness. But if they alone had to endure those things, then somehow, that’s an added burden whereas if their suffering was accompanied by their whole family or town or country, well, at least they’re not alone.

In my experience, these are generally the same people who, when you point out something they’re doing that’s morally wrong or a sinful, love to respond with “well, at least I’m not as bad as so-and-so” or “everyone is doing it” or “it’s just normal”.

Children oftentimes take this line of defense when caught red-handed.

What’s troublesome is when adults, especially professed Christian adults, do the same.

So, it made me wonder – where does this need to be “normal” come from? And what does it actually mean?

Mathematically, the concept of a “normal distribution”, as seen below, is just a statistical tool of probability. If an outcome is considered “normally distributed”, there is the median value right in the middle where statistically, 50% of the outcomes will fall. 68.2% of outcomes will fall between the -1s and 1s range (aka, 1 standard deviation). As you get further away from the middle, the probabilities become less and less likely to occur. If you’ve ever taken a class where the professor grades on a curve, his goal is to ensure ~68% of the class falls in that B to C range in the middle no matter how bright or dumb they may be.

So, the question again is, why do some aspire to be “normal”. Put another way, why would anyone want to be average?  I’ve seen people actually struggle with the notion of being “too smart” or “too fast” or receive too much attention or praise.  It’s very prevalent in Asian culture.  No, it’s not just because of the history of Chinese communism which started less than 100 years ago, though the parallels give you some insight into why communism was fairly easy to sell to people who culturally aspire to fit in with the group.  The Chinese weren’t always Communist.

The rhetoric today, particularly in Western culture, has grown exceedingly focused on staying in the norm when it comes to Finances, Careers, Wealth, Education, Housing, and Recognition.  Being exceptional, at least based on merit and achievement, has almost become a taboo in some circles.  The 99% movement and other socialist pop-culture phenomenon means to demonize anyone who dares to create “excessive wealth”, despite the fact that these people oftentimes create millions of jobs and business relationships for them which would not have otherwise existed.

But aside from the physical and the temptation that ensues to sow seeds of Envy and Covetousness, the culture today doesn’t like when people have opinions that don’t sound normal.  You’re labeled as being extreme or a conspiracy theorist if you fall outside the center.  Oftentimes, not being normal is construed as being hateful, judgmental, or even bigoted.

Where the world sees extremism for espousing strong opinions away from the norm, the Bible makes clear that we are to be exceptional.  The Christian should be rooted in our desire to walk, not with the world and its standards of morality or ethics based on the lowest common denominator, but rather to the highest standards on earth which are established by God in His Word.  Jesus taught about the wise man building his house upon a firm, solid foundation vs. the foolish man who builds his on sinking sand. (Matthew 7:24-29 (NKJV))

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. – Romans 12:2

I’ve written many times about how this world is not our home.  We are sojourners only passing through.  This temporary tent in which we find ourselves will vanish like dust and only our good works will be remembered and rewarded at the Judgement Seat of Christ.  If we walked and acted as we truly believed – knowing that God’s Word does not change, that His measurement is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, that He deserves our best, 100% of our effort, and that Grace does not give license for sin to abound but should stir our hearts to obey Him out of love and not fear – then we would never settle for being average. 

I’m always reminded of this page from Amazing Spider-Man #537 when Captain America is speaking to Peter, part of the Civil War arc.  The line is actually attributed to Mark Twain by Cap.  see – Captain America’s “No, you move” story

No You Move

How much more should Christians aspire not to settle for average, but to

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. – Galatians 5:1

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