My name is Andy, and I’m a non-conformist.

Welcome to Non-conformists Anonymous, a place where all of us recovering rebels can share and feel safe.

As absurd as that sounds, I kind of wish it was a real place.  And for any of you who know me much at all, you are well aware of my anti-establishment tendencies.  It’s not something I even necessarily do consciously, although for a time in my late teens and early twenties it most certainly was.  I can’t help it — it’s in my nature: I have a very hard time listening to music that is ultra popular (although that does have something to do with the fact that most of it is over-produced, commercialized crap, but that’s another topic altogether), and for a period, I even stopped buying my T-shirts at Goodwill, because that’s what everyone was doing.  And of course, like every good non-conformist Christian kid, my favorite Bible verse was Romans 12:2.  It seems that I have simply been programmed to swim against the stream.

I’ve been watching the Olympics pretty much nonstop for the last two weeks, and what really got me thinking about this topic was a blog I read about some comments one of the American snowboard-cross racers made about other athlete’s pants.  Basically he took issue with their “tight” pants and how it was ruining snowboarding’s outsider image.  And as the blogger so astutely pointed out, the guy ended up looking and sounding like a hypocritical idiot, mostly because his own baggy pants were designed by a name brand designer, his team is sponsored by Nike, Microsoft, and Visa, and he competes on the ESPN networks, which are owned by Disney, one of the largest companies/cults in the world.  You can’t get much more pro-establishment than that.

And that, I think, is one of the main problems with being an intentional non-conformist.  In trying to separate yourself from the crowd, all you are doing is trying to get the attention of that crowd, therefore inevitably making you a bigger part of it than you were before.  It makes you a hypocrite.  It also can give you a sense of prideful superiority:  “My collection of obscure indie rock vinyl is so much better than yours.”  And that sort of thing.

It was relatively recently, however, when I realized how much my separatist attitude affected me in my faith.  I never fully participated in worship because the music was too mainstream.  I couldn’t relate to anyone at my church because they were too “suburban.”  I fought way too hard to make my “alternativeness” obvious to everyone, and I complained about the ordinariness of my church.  It took God slapping me in the face through the wise words of friends for me to realize what I was doing.  I was making it about me, and not about Him.

Now having said all of this, I am still not in favor of uniformity and total conformity within the church.  There is a place for individuality and self-expression, and if we deny that, I think we are also denying that God created each of us uniquely, and that each of us have a place and a job to do.  I’ve realized that my aforementioned “alternativeness” is important in my church, because it is helping to make it a safe place for others who suffer from my same affliction.  And let’s be honest–we all feel safer around people who look like us, even nonconformists.

I am who I am, and you are who you are.  Embrace it, work with it, but don’t flaunt it.  It’s not about you, dummy.

I just wish someone would have said that to me ten years ago.

2 thoughts on “My name is Andy, and I’m a non-conformist.

  1. My name is Scott, and I’m a nonconformist. I was pretty much cast out in school because I liked my own type of music, and dressed how I wanted. Whenever I did try to fit in it got worse because everyone called me a “poser”. So I pretty much don’t give a crap what most people think any more. So much of society plays on the need to be like others that when you step out of it, you can see it for what it is, so much materialistic junk for sale. I remember how the point would play “new music” and everyone at school would get the same CD’s at the same time. Didn’t matter what it was. Kids would hear it over and over on the radio and go out a buy it. I couldn’t get why everyone liked it. It all reminds me of my parents saying “would you jump of a bridge if everyone else was doing it?”

    I think God made us as individuals for a reason. Every time I see a force for conformity, it has something shadowy behind it trying to lead a great number of people down a certain path without thinking too much. It disturbs me a great deal when others don’t think for themselves and leave it to a DJ on the radio to tell them what’s cool, or a pundit on TV to tell them what to think about the news. I don’t think it is all about “me” per say, but more that we are supposed to reach our own determinations as individuals using our minds fully. Not wandering through life pushed this way and that because that’s where the heard is going. Unfortunately many times the heard is being lead to be fleeced, or slaughtered.

  2. Andy,

    What up Unnerdog!! Question: If non-conformity becomes popular and a form of conformity in and of itself, does it become unattractive to you? I find in my own path, composers try so hard to create “their own sound” and completely go against the grain of traditional classical giants (i.e. Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, etc.) that they begin to sound like everyone else trying to sound new. Finding your core voice and expressing it is more important than being different…if that inner voice happens to be different: good for you! But that doesn’t necessarily negate everyone that is not (key word is “everyone”…I agree most people live life like cattle; unfortunately).

    I write, think, read, watch, buy, etc. etc. what I want. I don’t allow commercials to sway me because of name recognition, and have fought against over-popularization by not buying into brand names (unless of course it is cheaper…hehe). Just a little food for thought here. Be careful lest non-conformity be the new conformity!!

    Patrick

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