Facebook’s data logs will one day be a treasure trove of information for anthropologists, historians, and psychologists to sift through when learning about this era. Social media has its uses, of course, but on the whole Facebook and Twitter have become places for people to proudly display ignorance, bias, and misinformation. Parsing unending streams of information to determine fact from fiction may become the most beneficial skill for future humans.
Today’s post was prompted by an exchange of ideas on a friend’s Facebook post. One of the authors in the thread angrily told the original poster that they would not change the way they did things. The angry comment was laced with profanity and poor grammar, which is common on social media, but it is the sentiment behind the post that drives today’s thinking.
Here is a summary of the post:
The argument between Original Poster (hereafter O.P.) and Commenting Poster (C.P.), centered around the usage of language. C.P.’s remarks on O.P.’s post contained profanity. O.P. objected to such language on their page, stating that posting on someone else’s page was akin to being a guest in their home, and asked C.P. to refrain from such language. C.P. angrily and sardonically retorted they would not change for O.P. or anyone else, continuing with the foul language of course.
When presented with an alternative option, C.P. refused to alter their behavior to accommodate O.P. because “that’s the way I am”. That’s the way I am…a phrase designed to take advantage of our culture’s penchant for self-actualization. When we are asked to alter our behavior by another person and we respond with “That’s the way I am”, we reflect the request back to the offended person.
In other words, if I behave in a way that is irritating or offensive to another person, causing that person to ask me to adjust my behavior, and I refuse, citing the “That’s the way I am” argument, I am actually asking the first person to alter their behavior to accommodate me. Perhaps it would be apropos when someone claims the “That’s the way I am” argument to counter with your own “That’s the way I am”. Essentially it would be an adult version of the “Did not…Did too” arguments you had with your siblings as a child.
What drives the “That’s the way I am” argument? Why do people feel compelled to return to this ridiculous claim over and over again? The answer lies in fundamental assumptions and choices and how they affect us.
In the example given, C.P. uses foul language with regularity according to their comments. At some point, this person chose to incorporate “four-letter words” into their daily speech. Perhaps they struggled with advanced language or perhaps they had a parent who frequently cursed, we cannot know for certain without further investigation. Whatever the cause, they now see this aspect of their speech as indispensable. They simply do not know how to respond without using foul language because that manner of speech is now part of who they are as an individual.
When we make life choices we are usually confronted with obstacles. Choosing to use foul language in everyday speech, C.P. likely faced opposition in some form from society. However, the opposition was eventually overcome through continued positive reinforcement of the behavior. Whether such reinforcement came from internal justification or from outward sources (e.g., friends or family), in the end the person decided this behavior was hardwired into their system hence the argument “That’s just the way I am”.
We cling to such static behaviors and refuse to adapt or change because we associate most of our behavior with our identity. Humans are born with two powerful desires that are diametrically opposed: the desire to be known as an individual and the desire to be part of a group. It is possible for the “That’s just the way I am” argument to morph into “That’s just the way WE are”, but the concepts behind each statement are essentially equal. Because we are driven by these desires, as we grow and develop we seek out behavior patterns and make choices to validate who we have decided to be in the universe.
Whatever decisions we make about who we are fundamentally, whether those choices be existential, practical, or spiritual, we cling to them as if our life depended on them…because in a way it does. Most individuals have not reached the point of self-examination and self-awareness to become flexible. Most people are static creatures built on choices, often made decades ago, and as such they cannot see how to change…thus the “That’s the way I am” argument persists.
God is My Rock
Psalm 18:2 says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Powerful words for us to consider.
God should be the static cling in our lives. We can connect with Him and cling to Him because He does not and cannot change. Fundamentally God is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be the same in a billion trillion years. God’s design for humanity was for us to connect to Him as individuals and then He would walk with us through our life’s journey and we could adjust our thinking and behavior to reflect His unchanging thinking and behavior.
The “That’s the way I am” argument is built on self-referencing. We find ourselves on unstable ground emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually when we become self-referential.
Think of it like this…imagine everyone’s life is a painting that we work on for decades until we cross over from this world to the next. We can paint our own image while looking into a mirror (self-referencing) or we can paint what we see outside of ourselves that God has provided. While there is the option of painting external sources other than God, all of those external sources can be traced back to a self-referencing source.
Only the God provides a fully other source of reference for our life painting that also incorporates our personal identity into the picture. God is our rock to which we cling, but God does not ask us to abandon our created nature entirely. Instead, the amazing beauty of Christianity is that God desires us to become what He desires us to be…and that is always a reflection of inborn desires.
To put it another way, we are each born “bent” certain ways. We may have a proclivity for the arts, sports, mathematics, or any number of things. We may be extroverted or introverted, quiet or boisterous, thinking or feeling, and on and on. Numerous personality tests detail data about the varying types of people on earth, but all people were created by God and He placed desires within us that are reflective of Him.
Part of the Christian journey is discovering which parts of ourselves are God-designed and which are not and choosing the God-designed parts to focus on. When we live life in this manner we become flexible rather than static. Learning to adapt to God and flow with His thinking will destroy the “That’s the way I am” argument permanently.
Believers in Christ should have one response, “That’s the way HE is…and that’s the way I want to be too”. When we reflect those traits and abandon those parts of us that are in opposition to God’s beautiful static nature, we begin to change and find peace and joy in our journey.