A commenter on this blog recently observed that I seem like a non-conformist. That idea caught me a little bit off guard, but it makes perfect sense too. The comment also got me thinking about whether that is a good or a bad thing. Is non-conformity something to which we should aspire?
As I think back over my life it seems that my non-conformist tendencies have done much morphing and changing. I think they have gone from bad to better (hopefully from bad to good, but I’m probably not the best judge of that). The primary reason for the change is that non-conformity needs a significant amount of maturity and humility in order to be fruitful, and those are traits I am only just growing into.
At various points I have refused to conform in a contrarian way (It’s no good unless it’s my idea) and an anti-authoritarian way (don’t tell me what to do or how to do it). I have grown my hair shaggy, shaved it off, and just about everything in between. I wore pink shirts before metro-sexuals made it cool (or at least not socially anathema). And there were stretches where I did all these at the same time. Not one of these expressions of non-conformity had any value, and some were downright detrimental (or ugly). They were all me-focused and benefited nobody, including myself.
It is when non-conformity is aimed at a purpose that it begins to have value. It cannot be a self-indulgent end in itself.
We ought to pursue the sort of non-conformity that takes our minds outside of conventional thought and examines it with a critical eye. We should engage in non-conformity when it allows us to express a truth in a fresh way that will break the mold of previous expressions. We should consider the value of non-conformity in being a challenge or encouragement for those around us. We should embrace non-conformity when conforming leads us to boredom, uselessness, ineffectiveness, or sin.
I suppose I am a non-conformist, but I hope I am the sort that offers challenges, encouragement, fresh perspectives, and keeps you from being bored.