Learning to Appreciate Difference

Becky St. Clair
Learning to Appreciate Difference

My previous work was in public relations, which means managing the brand perception for an organization. In one particular job, I encountered an individual who made my work extremely difficult by always pushing the line of what was “acceptable.” By this I mean they were very intentional about rocking the boat—and boat-rocking, especially from within an organization, always means intense and uncomfortable work for those of us in PR. 

This individual (and their choices) bothered me; what they were doing wasn’t wrong, but it was creating discomfort and extra work for people doing what I did. When I expressed this frustration to my supervisor, they nodded in understanding, then asked me a simple question that completely and forever changed my perspective: “How do you think we would have felt about working with Martin Luther King, Jr.?”

What my boss was gently pointing out was that not everyone thinks or works the same way. What may seem like opposition and disruption is sometimes just someone working toward the same goal I was but with a very different approach, using their gifts and skills for the common good.

We often call this “following your calling.” 

According to 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, each of us has been given a special and individual gift. In this passage are listed such things as wisdom, faith, healing, preaching, and discernment. In real life each of these gifts manifests in a variety of ways in various fields—parenting, research, management, housekeeping, law, food service, mission work, and countless others. 

This scripture also says we have been given these gifts “for the common good” (verse 7).* 1 Peter 4:10 concurs: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another.” 

What stands out to me is not just that we each possess different skills and gifts, but that we are to use them to help each other

What stands out to me is not just that we each possess different skills and gifts, but that we are to use them to help each other

As I reflected on what my boss had asked me, I began to see this “troublesome” individual in a new light. They wanted positive change, and so did we. They felt called by God to take up a torch and lead the charge in a specific direction, and so did we. We were just doing it differently. 

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, approach was vexing to some, and caused discomfort and a lot of work for many. But it was necessary work. I’m learning to appreciate the way others bring their gifts to the table, and to focus on adding my own alongside them. 

“God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. . . . The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ . . . God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division . . . but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:18-26).

Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in California with her husband and three children. She has a decade of experience in public relations for the church, and currently writes and copy edits for various church entities around the world. 

*All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

Becky St. Clair