Henri Nouwen is one of my heroes. His perspective on people, faith and life is inspiring. However, I often find myself experiencing this internal tension when I read something that he wrote- first there is pure amazement at the eloquence and honesty of his words, but then envy creeps in and I immediately become jealous and wonder why I can’t write like that? This is not one of my finer qualities.
So with that disclaimer, read this because he says it far better than I can or ever will:
“At first sight, joy seems to be connected with being different. When you receive a compliment or win an award, you experience the joy of not being the same as others. You are faster, smarter, more beautiful, and it is that difference that brings you joy. But such joy is very temporary. True joy is hidden where we are the same as other people: fragile and mortal. It is the joy of belonging to the human race. It is the joy of being with others as a friend, a companion, a fellow traveler.”
I find it humbling that in so many areas of my life I strive to be different. I think we all do. We all want to be unique or set apart. We want our writing style or our blog or our fashion sense to be set-apart and special. I like it when my friends compliment me on something that I’ve made or praise me for some random fact that I’ve shared simply because it was different or unique. It feeds some part of me that seeks to be known and viewed as one-of-a-kind. But in reality, I think Henri is right– these compliments and shorts boosts of self-esteem for not being different from other people only brings temporary joy.
And who wants temporary, or fleeting joy, right? What I long for in life is real joy.
Perhaps this joy comes from admitting to each other and ourselves that we are all really the same?
We come as broken and fragile beings, who actually need each other. Maybe we should stop striving to be different and instead try acknowledging that there is joy in being the same.
Quote Credit (and basically all thoughts and inspiration goes to): Mr. Henri Nouwen.