How do we handle discouragement over not fitting in?
It seems that almost everyone around us wants to be in the steady current of popularity. Everyone wants to be in a group and to be included. But sometimes group friendships can be very difficult to develop. Some troubles that prevent connection and satisfaction could be physical or ethnic differences, opposing likes and passions, or differing personalities. But these so-called obstacles can be overcome -- not by climbing over them or shoving them aside, but by accepting the differences and realizing that they cannot hold us back. Many teenagers who want to be included in a group try to be like others, which is not always the best way because we may forget to express the perfect characteristics that we have been given by God. Truly fitting in means that we are able to connect with others without being afraid to be ourselves while recognizing the importance of being open to others. We are all perfect reflections of God, and we can all express ourselves to others, whether it be by smiling when we pass someone or by enjoying a conversation.
But sometimes it is discouraging to be different. I know from experience the feeling of insecurity. I am very short for my age, and sometimes it gets discouraging at social events or when I play sports. But I have come to realize that it does not matter how small someone or something is because the ever-present God surrounds us and gives us dominion. I have partly seen this in professional sports when players who are 5 foot 5 inches are playing in the NBA, in football, or just in my daily life. I've learned I can play without fear and be around others without fear because even if we think we have no one to turn to, we all have God to turn to. Because God is always there for us, there is no weakness that we can't handle. Mark Twain once said, "Courage is the resistance to or the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear." This holds true for almost every courageous act I've seen others display in overcoming obstacles. The "still small voice" (I Kings 19:12) that people hear in times of peril or need may be small, but it reflects and gives the truth that God holds; and it is the strongest thing in existence.
I also know the feeling of giving others a welcome when they're first meeting people. It can be discouraging if you're the new kid. In my previous school in Japan at Yokohama International School, there was a boy from Africa who could not speak English as well as most of the other kids. Though he wasn't often teased, as young as we were, I knew he did not have many friends and was not feeling welcomed. I talked about this to my class at church, and we read in the Bible, "To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend" (Job 6:14). When I started to see the boy not as excluded and unwanted, but as truly loved by God, I was able to accept him and see his great individual qualities that I did not have. I was more open to him -- inviting him to birthday parties, playing with him, and just being nicer. We can help others by letting into our own experience the uniqueness that each one of us holds, which is often desperate to be seen. Though we don't have to be best friends with everyone we meet, we can give others chances to show their true light.
So if you feel discouraged or fearful or on the outside, or if you see someone who feels that way, hold fast to the truth, and don't let differences interfere with mutual understanding between people and revelation from God. God's door is always open -- whether it be for something simple or for life-changing inspiration and experiences.