Like many of us I can look back on my life and see a variety of pitiful attempts to fit in. As a little child I have vivid memories of my grandmother telling me that ‘children are to be seen and not heard’. I remember being demeaned by relatives for being hyperactive and aggressive. Today I am sure I would have been deemed ADHD and medicated.
Love me, hate me, but please don’t ignore me. The classical class clown. I would do anything to be noticed. In some ways it was easy, I was blessed with a certain level of athletic prowess. I could always make an impression with a ball in my hands. But it was never enough.
Like most of us, I have spent my life trying to fit in.
My grade three report card actually says, “Scott thinks he runs the class and frankly I’m getting sick of it!” It didn’t help that school came easy and so I was bored. Being bored leaves you a lot of time to irritate the teachers and I am nothing if not persistent. I don’t remember much of those early years, but I do remember spending most of grade four in the hall. The principal and I were on a first name basis. Back in those days teachers didn’t get danger pay.
I am a very imperfect person who, for many years, has spent his time trying to help other people deal with issues that I struggled with as well. For many years I felt like a hypocrite who had to pretend to be something I was not.
I’ve been trying to be real, but it’s hard. We’ve all been burned. I am told often that I am not very normal. I don’t act, look, or dress according to the caricature of a staid and mature authority figure. For many years I wore this mantle like a badge of honor, secretly relishing my status as a maverick. It was easy to justify any sort of behavior, whether appropriate or completely asinine. Hey, if I can’t fit the mold, then screw the mold.
This is no longer something I am proud of. I have had to come to peace with my personality and not use it as an excuse any longer. What has been painfully difficult for me to come to terms with is that marginal personalities and maverick leaders need to humbly assess their own effectiveness and admit that we tend to marginalize others because we are unable or unwilling to listen, to affirm, and to appreciate that people’s perceptions can have value. Those of us who have fought a lifelong battle to be free and come to grips with our uniqueness are often too quick to take offense when those whose opinion we usually honor smacks up against our hard-won acceptance of ourselves. It becomes easier and easier to arrogantly shoot back that ‘we have come to accept that we are different and you better start accepting it too’.
In the struggle to appreciate our own worth and our exceptional contribution, it is all too easy to stop listening, stop learning, stop growing. There has been a failure on my part to consider that I alone am responsible for monitoring my behavior and the way I interact with others. I must not use my temperament as an excuse for immaturity or belligerence. In the same way that others need to come to grips with my uniqueness and special gifts, so I also must grow up in my conversations and relationships. Those on the fringes know better than most that feelings are easily hurt and we don’t have the luxury of trampling over the feelings of others with a ‘damn them all’, ‘love me or screw you’ attitude. Restraint is called for. Maturity is not optional. It is a lesson that I continue to learn, often suffering the consequences of my marginal temperament. I cannot expect people to understand my heart when I damage with my mouth.