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Stop Trying to Fit In

Stop Trying to Fit In

Deep confidence grows within us when we stop trying to fit in. This happens when we find our confidence in who God made us to be, and how much He loves us, instead of trying to ‘fit into’ the art scene. There is a good reason you don’t quite fit in, and it isn’t your hairstyle, artistic idiosyncrasies, or your dysfunctional family.

Ready for it? You are not supposed to feel completely at home right here and now, because this is not fully your home. Peter begins his letter in the New Testament, explicitly telling his audience they will not be able to fit in. He tells them, “To God’s elect, strangers in the world, exiles scattered throughout [the world]” (1 Peter 1:1). He knows they will feel a bit out of place at times because they sing to a different melody, and march to a different drummer – God himself. Your true citizenship is not based in the region you are living. Your citizenship is in the kingdom of God.

The Danger of ‘Fitting In’

Trying to fit in is about adapting and trying to transform yourself into something others will accept or celebrate. Sit in a room with your manager at a PR firm, and you can see this desire on steroids. And though there is a place for market research, it can become an endless cycle of guessing what people want and trying to become that ideal. Along the way, too many artists lose a sense of who they really are anymore. Singer Rob Thomas once wrote a song about this, singing, “I’m not real anymore, I am an illusion.” We can’t find our identity by chasing expectations.

Fitting in vs Belonging

Researcher, professor and author, Brene’ Brown addresses this distinction of trying to fit in, versus belonging. It is the opposite of what we should be pursuing.

“In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are—love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all.
Many of us suffer from this split between who we are and who we present to the world in order to be accepted, (Take it from me: I’m an expert fitter-inner!) But we’re not letting ourselves be known, and this kind of incongruent living is soul-sucking.”

Brene’ is not writing a biblical thesis on this topic, but she has great insight from decades of research. She points out a key truth, that we must know where we belong. God’s word tells us that it starts with our identity in relationship to God.

Our hope is found in spending more time understanding what it means to be a child of God. The more we try to fit in with the world, the more our spiritual life will suffer. We still need to network and be wise, but we cannot twist ourselves into human pretzels in order to fit in.

God loves you as you are, and the secret to confidence and contentment is owning the truth that you are His child, whom He loves! That is why your sense of belonging is in His arms, and amongst His family.

Know Where You Are

What is essential is for us to realize that we are living in the “in-between” space of time, sanctification, and redemption. We have the promises of the Old Testament. We know the accomplishments of Christ in His death and resurrection. We can place our faith and hope in the promises of the one true God who rescued His people from Egypt and who rescues us from sin, shame, guilt and death.

All of this is true, and yet…we are not fully free of sin the way God wants us to be and we are not free from living in this broken world the way we were designed to be. We have a natural longing for heaven, which reminds us that we will always feel like foreigners and aliens. At least until Christ comes again.

Accept the Tension

Creatives who follow Jesus will always experience a tension between their faith and the world in which they live. We can see it in the content taught in art schools, the art celebrated in the mainstream, as well as in the studio conversations we have with our friends of other faiths or no faith.

Even if we work on a production where everyone is a fellow follower of Christ, we will still experience this tension because we are all fallen, we all wrestle with unbelief, and we all struggle with our own insecurities. Keeping your heart and soul grounded in God’s love for you is an ongoing process. We must remind our heart of our true identity each day as we are tempted to look to other things for our identity.

The Benefit of not ‘Fitting In’

As a creative, this is good news. The art world and the entertainment industry may want you to adapt to their perspective, but they also value the ingenuity and innovation that come from creatives who aren’t part of the current group-think. This is where your faith may just be the essential part of your life that helps you see things differently and create differently than others. This helps you stand out, and to live from the conviction of belonging, instead of insecurity that comes from trying to ‘fit in’.

Your Heritage in Abraham

Abraham was called by God, and blessed by God. However, his life was not blessed because he tried to ‘fit in’. It was blessed because he sought to honor God and placed his faith in God. The writer of Hebrews lays it out clearly for us.

8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10)

And Abraham held onto hope, even though it wasn’t realized in his lifetime.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

We are caught in the tension. Like Abraham, we are thankful for what we have. We are thankful for the blessings God has bestowed on us. And yet, we know this is not all we were made for. We will never feel completely at home until Jesus comes again and we are living with Him in the New Jerusalem. This is our heritage and our calling as believers.

The Challenge of Being Set Apart

As we begin to find our sense of belonging in the presence of God, there is a danger we should be aware of. It is the temptation to focus primarily on our own unique and special status as children of God. This can lead to the sin of pride, and an air of arrogance or self-righteousness. We must remember that God did not chose us because we were so smart, talented, or beautiful. We brought nothing to the relationship. In fact, Paul reminds us that we were spiritually “dead” in transgressions when Christ died for us. (Eph 2:5). If we understand our relationship with God clearly, it will be humbling. It must never create a sense of pride within us, which leads us to look down upon others. This is equally sinful and does not glorify your God in heaven. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, we are called to:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)

The Confidence that Comes in Being Set Apart

The more we can meditate upon the Word of God, and the more we embrace our identity as God’s children, the more we will find great confidence and boldness in our life and in our creative works. This is the same confidence that took a weak, impetuous disciple named Peter, and emboldened him to become a martyr for his faith in Christ. All the disciples possessed this same kind of boldness, and most of them also died as martyrs. That is confidence in their identity as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

If great men and women in the history of the Bible and the church have been willing to make such risks, how does that speak to your creative freedom? Do you have the boldness that comes from knowing you are loved, that you have been bought by the blood of Christ and that Christ came to give you freedom? If we truly understand these truths about our identity, we will take risks, live boldly, and worship God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

As you read this, take time to consider how you can live and create more boldly, knowing your identity is anchored in God’s love for you instead of the praise of the world.

Tell us in the comments below: In what ways have you been tempted to pursue the approval of others, and how has it restricted your creativity? How could this sense of identity in God’s love for you bring radical freedom to your creative process?

Copyright © 2022 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

10 comments on “Stop Trying to Fit In”

  1. Leonardo Ramirez Reply

    Beautifully written. There is so much truth in every point. There was a time where I did try to fit in with one or two interviews. Not only did it come across as not authentic but it plum just doesn’t work! No good fruit came out of it.

    A good friend and brother just the other day said to me, “You are His son.” This is a truth I’ve heard before but needed to be reminded in a given situation. His son is all I want to be. That’s where true contentment lies. From there, I can create out of relationship and from the “secret place” knowing that whatever is said about me as a result (good or bad), I will always be His son.

    I still have dreams but today, I have everything I’ve ever needed.

  2. Wendy Wolff Reply

    This is important. Sooner or later we get there. We can only take so much of the pace and attitudes thrust upon us by common ideas of what the momentum toward success is supposed to look like. (Not to mention how we are supposed to dress and act to be able to qualify). I admire those who are wise enough to live out these principles early in their creative careers and personal lives as well as in the context of their relationship with the Lord. This is a freeing place to land. It takes striving out of the pathway toward ones dreams and ambitions. I also think it contributes so much to our peace and happiness! Thanks Joel for articulating this wonderful insight.

  3. Todd Syswerda Reply

    Phenomenal thoughts, Joel!! As a Christian who teaches the arts in a Christian university, this tension is constantly present and often addressed. And in my own attempts to model this life, it is something I need to be reminded of. Thank you for sharing!

    • Joel Pelsue Reply

      Todd, Thank you for sharing this. One of our passions is helping equip professors like you as you train the next generation. Let us know if we can be of assistance in any way! I just checked out your faculty page – we have a Colorado connection (I grew up there and went to Denver Christian High School). Also, impressed by the Gaither connection – what a legacy!

  4. Rholan Wong Reply

    Amen, Joel. I find that just about everything in my life starts with a deep experience and foundation of God’s passionate and tender love for me.

  5. Silvana Tei Kenney Reply

    Thank you Joel! We know it in our heads, but to live it is another story. The comfort comes from reading the whole scriptures and see how Abraham was ready to give up his wife/sister to belong…and yet he was named among the great of faith. There is hope for us strugglers, like you said, we need to daily admit that we are just ragamuffins, saved by grace.

    Silvana

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