Recently, I met an individual who was sharing his excitement of a new discussion group he had joined. I was inspired by his genuine enthusiasm. Yet, one of his terms of endearment for the group stirred my thinking: We are all like-minded.

On the surface, it felt logical.  Understandable.  Invigorating.

And seductive.

It also sounded comfortable in a time of his own season of transition. There is an element in all of us that longs for the comfort brought by the familiar and the similar – along with the affirmation that comes from such natural bonds. After all, isn’t that the defining nature of most any affinity group?

It shows-up in so many arenas of our life – schools, sports, church, nations, and the demographic choosing of your like.

Likeness serves a purpose until it doesn’t.

I have periodically expressed my reluctance of talking politics and religion with people who agree with me. It’s not that I can’t learn something, though normally it comes in the form of grounding me deeper into what is already ingrained. That feels good, but rarely stretches me. I thoroughly enjoy a conversation where we come from different viewpoints, experiences, opinions and beliefs. When each is willing to genuinely listen and explore what is unfamiliar and often uncomfortable to them, we can begin to wonder and wander into the unknown of each other.

In all fairness, I love likeness. But what I love more is when likeness is richly discovered in the midst of differences. It is rarely found on the surface, but in the territory beyond our perceived limitations.

Sound bites aren’t particularly helpful — like salt in a wound. Salty sound bites only serve to long-preserve the attachment to ideas resting in our already made-up minds. In a rapidly changing world of disruption, like-minded is what we want. Diversity is what we need. Yet, the essence grounded deep in our core is what serves us well.

It is the place where real likeness is found.

Years ago, a friend had a dream that she was facing a massive brown rock and there was no way around it. Throughout the dream she faced the rock feeling completely stuck. She shared the dream with her counselor. He asked her, rather than focusing on the desire to move forward, to start mentally stepping back from the rock and tell him what she saw. Slowly, she began to share a sense of first standing-up before stepping back. As she began to step back, she described the massive rock proportionately falling into the context of a small stone lying in the midst of a beautiful massive field in front of her. Closeness can, in fact, block our connection to a broader context.

Sometimes we have to step away from what we so clearly see and know, to curtail a paradoxical blindness. Where we are standing, or where we are lying, can have a limiting impact on all we see.  So can relying on the love we have for regularly hanging-out with the like-minded.

Biblically speaking, Proverbs advises that iron sharpens iron. This doesn’t necessarily sound like advice for a surface level feel-good gathering.  And it would be easy to understand this as the like-minded hanging-out together. I would suggest it more likely addresses the sharpness we may feel in the midst of differences – as well as the sharpness we can develop when we go there with courage and grace.

We often use our likeness to blind us and our differences to divide us. 

It seems that we would be far better served to engage in our differences venturing through a common experience where we initially learn to like and eventually come to love each other. It takes going well beyond our behaviors, wants and needs (and, yes, our minds) to get there. It is there that we discover the limitless nature of our core.

It’s worth getting up and stepping back. There is so much more to see.

As always, I’d be grateful for you sharing your thoughts and experiences below.