Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My pattern as an outsider

My lack of writing has been eating at me, so here goes nuthin.

In the comments of my last post one of my friends teasingly called me a "fence-sitter". It was just a joke, but like the best jokes, there was a ring of truth to it. The fact remains that in many of the very volatile areas of debate (politics, religion, money) I tend to sit on the sidelines and find at least something in common with just about every perspective. The more I thought about it the more I realized I've always been that way.

In high school the big deal is which "crowd" you are a part of. Jock, nerd, goth, bimbo... they all have a crowd. I never picked a crowd and instead lived as a floater, a nomad. One day I'd eat lunch with the jocks, next day I'd eat with the brains, then move to the funny table. I was very good at making acquaintances with everybody, but I never had any really close friends. There was always a distance there... I sat on the fence and watched the cliques form.

In churches I've seen huge battles between the "conservatives" and the "liberals". Some of these happened while I was serving in a formal church role, but even then I'd sort of sit outside the debate, hoping we could just love each other and let it go.

Most of the personality tests I've taken (and as a part of business school, I took many) showed me to be a "chameleon", a person who switches among all personality types depending on the setting. Everybody does this at some level, I think, but I can almost reinvent myself from moment to moment, conversation to conversation. It's fun but it always leaves me at the edges, never completely invested in any one social group.

The fact that I'm on the edge, or on the fence, or on the sidelines, doesn't mean that I don't participate. I just participate in my own way, often a very subtle way, so subtle that some people may interpret as missing the game.

I think the world needs people who pick a team and go full-steam ahead with their perspectives. People like that have a way of getting big things done. And the people on the other team, moving full-steam ahead in the opposite direction, have a way of tempering the first group and keeping them from going too far, too fast. Republican/Democrat checks and balances are one example of this dynamic at work.

At the same time, I think the world needs people who don't fit into the main two camps. People who who don't care about picking a team but love analyzing the game and identifying trends in the sport as a whole. That's me.

The two games that I'm watching right now are politics and religion. I'm seeing huge battles in each. And in neither case am I going to pick a team. But I think I still have something to contribute.

7 comments:

Debby said...

The thing is, I am a person of very definate opinions. But I'm also very aware that everyone has a right to their own opinions. I've never felt that anyone was wrong because they thought differently than me. (The irony of this is that my brother is a fellow who can't stay married. He has to have a woman on the side. I think he's wrong. He thinks that I'm a judgemental...well...insert own expletive here. The thing is, I believe we all have an obligation to behave kindly and respectfully. We also have an obligation to be true to ourselves. So straddle the fence, if that is what you truly feel. Most reporters claim that same 'fence sitter' tendency. An unbiased view, carefully recorded, can change the world.

Hal Johnson said...

"At the same time, I think the world needs people who don't fit into the main two camps."

I very much agree.

Redlefty said...

debby, I love your dual-outlook that we must be respectful to each other while staying true to ourselves. It's a wonderful balance!

Bob Barbanes said...

I think it's useful and in fact valuable to have strong, carefully thought-out opinions. Nothing wrong with that. Nobody likes wishy-washy people who never take a stand on anything. I want to hear what people really think - not what they think I want to think they think. Or something like that. So being a fence-sitter just to avoid expressing an opinion is wrong in this case.

Having said that, we have to be mature enough to change or modify those opinions when new information is received.

For instance, I used to believe strongly in the concepts of "heaven" and "hell." But not so much anymore. Now I'm not so sure, partially from reading this very blog!

Seeing both sides of every issue is fine; merely saying so to avoid taking a stand is a cop-out. I don't *think* that's what you were getting at, Michael. But personally I would never want to be classified as a "chameleon," because unlike the animal that does it naturally, in humans it implies a sense of "changing intentionally to suit the environment."

Don said...

I think we are on the verge of a major change in both areas you mentioned. I have watched for four years changes which I thought were just happening to me. However, in the last year, I am beginning to realize that the change it's not just me, it is happening in the world, therefore, in politics and especially religion. I posted an article from a DFW newspaper which says what I think most of us already know. Here's the link:

http://www.star-telegram.com/242/story/837232.html

James W said...

Yeah it really depends on the issue or situation to show where I am at. I tend to be a fence-sitter on things I am not to concerned about and things that I am passionate about i pick a side.

MamaRose said...

I think everything you said about yourself is TRUE--knowing you, from when you were first born!!!!!!

I would say you are trying to be: "ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE"--trying to find something in common, which you DO have, with most folks!!!!!!!!!!! And, that's good--MORE of us should TRY to do that, instead of just being/staying in 'ONE GROUP'--you LEARN MORE that way, get to know MORE folks & you become a GREAT ANALYST!!!!!!!!--LIKE YOU HAVE!!!!!

You made these choices consciously & on purpose & were 'comfortable' with them--most folks would not be.

And, you're able to KEEP AN OPEN MIND & LEARN EVEN MORE this way, I think. I think it's a 'good' way to be & am VERY PROUD OF YOU!!!!!!

YOU DO 'have a place' in our World, Today & some day, you MAY ALSO CHOOSE to 'jump off that fence' & GET INTO one or more GROUPS--to HELP/LEAD THEM!!!!!!!!!!
I can 'see' that, for sure!!!!!!!!

I don't agree with Bob, though, about YOUR why/how you're a 'chameleon'--you DON'T just "CHANGE to SUIT YOUR ENVIRONMENT"--you can CHANGE--FIT IN to DIFFERENT groups of folks BECAUSE YOU ALREADY HAVE SOMETHING MAJOR IN COMMON WITH THEM!!!!!!!!!

You WERE a jock & a nerd & VERY funny in HS--that's HOW/why you FIT INTO ALL THOSE GROUPS!!!!!!!!!
The nice/UNusual thing is that ALL of them ACCEPTED you--after seeing you WITH the other 'groups'!!!!!!!
PRETTY SPECIAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LOVE YOU BUNCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mom