Everybody's Normal Until You Get to Know Them.
By Sondra Whitt
Someone once remarked that everyone is strange, just in different ways. The older I've gotten, the more "opportunities" I've had to realize that this is true! Why are they strange? Most often because they don't think or act like we do. So that makes them strange - to us - just as it might make us strange to them. Thinking about that made me think about families. Who doesn't have a story to tell about a weird family member or one who drives everyone nuts? Or maybe they just drive us nuts.
One day as a friend and I were talking about families she said, "I've always thought that the term 'dysfunctional family' was redundant." Although we laughed, she went on to explain that all families are dysfunctional, just in different ways and to different degrees. And since she's the office manager for a group of therapists, she knows what she's talking about! She sees all shapes and sizes of families with all kinds and degrees of "dysfunction." Having that perspective sure makes me feel better about my own family!
"Everybody's weird," writes John Ortberg, in Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them. "This is such a fundamental insight, you may want to close the book for a moment and share this thought with the person closest to you," he continues. "Or the person it most reminds you of. Or perhaps these are the same person. Because we know in our hearts that this is not the way we're supposed to be, we try to hide our weirdness.
Every one of us pretends to be healthier and kinder than we really are; we all engage in what might be called 'depravity management.'" And, I imagine, even the way we try to manage our depravity can be seen by other people as weird.
Ortberg points out that when a person's "weirdness" is made public, we're scandalized and say something like, "Can you believe it? And they seemed so normal." This happens when a high profile person is caught in a sex scandal or exposed as an embezzler. I recently discovered a childhood friend had embezzled a couple hundred thousand dollars and was going to spend some time in prison. I was shocked! It broke my heart to think of her family and children - why did she do it, what brought her to that point? She was so normal! Or as normal as any of us!
Sometimes other people's weirdness is really irritating to us. We can become angry or repulsed by it. So what do we do? We reject the strange, weird people who are so different than we are. We reject them when all they really want and need is the same thing we do - someone to accept them and let them know that they really are normal - just different. We can accept them with something as simple as a smile, a friendly look in the eyes, a touch, a helping hand. If we can learn to accept their "weirdness" then maybe we can learn to accept our own.
We used to live in western Kansas, which some people might describe as barren or even desolate. When we first moved there I might have agreed. But now when we travel through that part of the country I appreciate the openness. It is the same place, just viewed from a different perspective. What if we took the same approach with people? What's strange to one person is normal to another. While we think of strange as being "odd" it can also be defined as "extraordinary" - as in not ordinary. Our weirdness can, in reality, be our uniqueness. It's what distinguishes us from everyone else. The alternative would be a world filled with clones. And that would be really weird.
Sondra Whitt is a founding partner of Purpose Unlimited, whose purpose is to transform lives, leaders and organizations through the power of purpose.
She has a masters degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and consults, coaches, writes and speaks on personal and organizational development.
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