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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : For those of us who are not piccolos. » For those of us who are not piccolos.

For those of us who are not piccolos.

Susan M - April 7, 2008

The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

This was exactly what we needed to hear this conference.

My husband and I are misfits, and we always will be. I don’t have to think about it much, because I’m off in the haven that is Primary. My husband attends Gospel Doctrine, though, and just about every Sunday I get to hear about what a horrible time he’s had in class. He doesn’t view a lot of things the same way most other people do.

We were talking about it last night as we sat in the church parking lot waiting for our daughter to return from her trip to Utah for General Conference. He said he doesn’t really place blame anywhere—and compared it to being a foreigner. It is a bit like that for us. We don’t have the same background, lifestyle, or outlook as most of the people we meet at church. It’s almost like we speak a different language.

Our kids feel it, too. My daughter bore her testimony recently and said our family are misfits, but it’s ok because we all fit in with each other, which is sweet. And a really super nice older woman told me later, “Don’t worry, we all feel like we don’t fit in,” which I think is true. But she doesn’t know us well enough to realize just how much we don’t fit in.

I told my husband I don’t want to fit in (I like who we are), and I think it might be worse to want to fit in and not be able to.

I had an email conversation with a commenter on this blog recently about not fitting the mold. He told me because we don’t fit the mold yet are strong in the church we’re in a position to have a lot of positive influence. I assume he means we can help others who are less active because they don’t fit the mold feel more comfortable in coming to church. And I have seen that. My son has really long hair. It’s not that unusual for boys to have long hair where we live—but his is really long, and bright red. Most of the kids with long hair look like surfer/skater kids (which they are)—but he’s a metalhead. I’m told often by a woman who brings her young nephew to church how great she thinks it is. Her nephew’s parents are not active members, and hippy types. Her nephew doesn’t just have long hair—he has dreadlocks. And whenever he says he doesn’t want to go because he doesn’t fit in, she brings up my son. And her nephew feels more comfortable being there.

Mostly, though, I don’t really think we’re doing all we can. We pretty much keep to ourselves. I mean, we’ve never really looked to church to provide us with a social life—most of our friends have always been non-members (or ex-members). I started a book group when we first moved here, and enjoyed that—although it was mostly sweet little old ladies who attended. I’m trying to start up a photography group as well. I just find it hard to really get to know people in the ward, especially when we have almost nothing in common. I’m sure it’d be easier if I wasn’t such an introvert. Any tips for me?

Anyone else feel like they don’t fit in?

23 Comments »

  1. That ended up being one of my favorite talks too. Maybe we all feel a little like misfits at times.

    (I thought the afternoon session Sunday had a bunch of excellent talks as well)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 7, 2008 @ 9:34 am

  2. Not exactly on-topic, but when I was listening to this talk I could have sworn he said “pickles” and wondered if he weren’t making a back-handed allusion to Elder Bednar’s infamous talk.

    Comment by JimD — April 7, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  3. I really liked that line, and I hope it proves to be the kind that sticks in everybody’s minds and makes a difference inside the church and viewing life outside the church.

    Comment by cchrissyy — April 7, 2008 @ 10:43 am

  4. Susan – Thanks for highlighting that line in Elder Wirthlin’s talk. I think a lot of people in the church feel like you do but to different degrees.

    “I told my husband I don’t want to fit in (I like who we are), and I think it might be worse to want to fit in and not be able to.”

    What an excellent insight. Your self confidence in who you are is what most of us are striving for. And your thought that it is more frustrating and harmful to not fit in when you really want to is something we all should consider.

    I am a bit of a black sheep (I hope that term doesn’t offend anyone) in my ward because of my outspoken political beliefs. I was raised by die hard Democrats and I’m usually not shy about stating my political beliefs. I know there are many who agree with me on those issues but feel intimidated by those who want us all to believe that God and Jesus are Republicans. I actually have a good time with it and certain of my friends at church like to discuss those issues when we are in social circumstances. And I enjoy it too. (When I served as bishop one of my Republican friends joked that when she was asked by a member of the SP in a temple recommend interview if she associated with any apostate groups she said “Well, my bishop is a Democrat.” The SP Counselor didn’t get the joke.)

    I don’t feel isolated or shunned at church but I do feel different – but that’s OK. Thanks for helping us all understand better that it’s OK.

    Comment by Lamonte — April 7, 2008 @ 11:01 am

  5. I’ve been in the same ward and stake for over ten years and a stake reorganization moves us to a new stake. This is almost as different as moving to a whole new city. So, fitting in is a big topic – especially for a teenage son. The way we try to approach it (there have been past moves) is to remember there isn’t any person who will keep us from coming to church. I know what the Holy Spirit has confirmed to me and what my duty to that testimony is. Ultimately, I only have to “fit in” with my God and my conscience. I put up with others because God wants me to and in hopes that they will put up with me.

    Comment by mondo cool — April 7, 2008 @ 11:16 am

  6. I can’t even go to choir practice at church without being a weird little misfit. Another reason I like Wirthlin’s quote is because it captures exactly what it’s like to be an alto in the Church:P

    But the fact that I’m different from everyone else in Church doesn’t really bother me because it has nothing to do with Church. I’m different from other people period because I don’t fit nicely into a label, and I don’t try to. I wouldn’t say that I like being different, but I do like being myself. And as long as being myself makes me different is something I’ll just have to be.

    I commend you parents who allow your children this luxury. Being a teenager is hard enough without parents getting on their case to have missionary hair cuts.

    Comment by Paradox — April 7, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  7. I can’t even go to choir practice at church without being a weird little misfit. Another reason I like Wirthlin’s quote is because it captures exactly what it’s like to be an alto in the Church:P

    But the fact that I’m different from everyone else in Church doesn’t really bother me because it has nothing to do with Church. I’m different from other people period because I don’t fit nicely into a label, and I don’t try to. I wouldn’t say that I like being different, but I do like being myself. And as long as being myself makes me different is something I’ll just have to be.

    I commend you parents who allow your children this luxury. Being a teenager is hard enough without parents getting on your case to have a missionary hair cut.

    Comment by Paradox — April 7, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

  8. I am certainly not a piccolo (or a pickle for that matter), and I’m happy with that fact. I’m comfortable with being 48 years old, long hair and beard. I teach the elder’s quorum and I hold a temple recommend. I try daily to improve my life and evaluate my realationship with Christ. I sustain my church leaders and have a testimony of the Restored Gospel. I’m also a “tree-hugger”, eat organic foods, stand up and fight for human rights around the world, and I let my dog sleep on the bed! I love the diversity of the orchestra! I love the piccolos! But I’m ok with the idea of not being one!

    Comment by Hollis — April 7, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

  9. I’m certainly not a piccolo! But I’m very comfortable sitting where I do in the orchestra! I’m a long-haired, long-bearded, tree hugger, supporter of human rights, who eats organic foods, and let’s the dogs sleep on the bed! I also hold a temple recommend, teach elder’s quorum, am a returned missionary trying to live a good life of service and Christ like love. Piccolo’s are wonderful, but the orchestra sounds much nicer with ALL of the instruments participating!

    Comment by Hollis — April 7, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

  10. sorry for the extra post! I didn’t think my first post went through!

    Comment by Hollis — April 7, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

  11. This was also my favorite talk of the weekend. I’ve recently joined a new ward with surprisingly different demographics than any other ward I’ve lived in and it has been a wonderful experience.

    Comment by SingleSpeed — April 7, 2008 @ 2:57 pm

  12. Susan,

    Me, too. :)

    “He told me because we don’t fit the mold yet are strong in the church we’re in a position to have a lot of positive influence.”

    I’d sure agree with this. I find that I just don’t mind what people are going to think, any more. I have a very strong testimony, and life experience all over the place, and I talk through those things – and, my experience over the last few years has been that whatever idiosyncracies I retain (pretty much my entire personality – I’m still aware that the better I’m known the more difficult I may seem to some), people get past it because of the testimony.

    My feeling when I heard the words you quoted: what a wonderful time it is in the history of the church.

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — April 7, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

  13. I actually don’t think most members have a tough time accepting different personalities – I just think the culture that we’ve created encourages the misfits to culturally assimilate, or else stay away (I think, I hope, that this is changing though). I think our tendency to teach that faithfulness leads to one superior, end personality definitely has roots in our emphasis of certain doctrines – after all, aren’t we all trying to be
    like the same person? We tend to hear a lot of stories about how “you can just tell a Mormon by the way they look and act”, and we are quick to praise how Mr. Tattoo’ed Motorcycle Man got baptized and cut his hair and now wears a white shirt and tie everywhere. Building up the General Authorities as the ultimate modern hero also tends give the impression that true faithfulness means you have look a certain way, act a certain way, and have a narrow set of talent, goals, and likes and dislikes. We also still have a tendency to try to make our congregations in other countries conform to the Utah standard – kind of a “Promised Land = correct culture” kind of paradigm.

    What has happened is that we have taught our children and our youth that certain aesthetics are just inherently wrong, and we’ve made the mere encountering of temptation a sin. Rather than seek out the good in the (sometimes) wicked world, we focus on not getting close to any of the bad. “Would you be watching that, or listening to that, or wearing that, if Jesus was in the room??!!!1!!” and “Don’t even take the chance of getting in a bad situation.” I think we tend to hedge around the law and misinterpret “avoid the appearance of evil” WAY TOO MUCH. We can be so vague about what actually is a sin, but we will be damn well sure that you never get close to committing one.

    There is something very un-Christian about all of this, because of the fact that Elder Worthlin points out – we’re all inherently different, and these kind of differences can’t be valued a good/evil continuum. Unfortunately our old-fashioned, quaint Mormon-ness can sometimes shout to the world that we do overvalue our culture as a kind of “higher law” for the righteous. I think the members that would purposely shun the proverbial “man with the long hair” are in the minority – we know we shouldn’t judge him. But ultimately we do, because we expect him to change as he begins to learn about the gospel, and “know better”.

    There has to be a balance here. I’m not in any way saying that moral standards based in truth need to be lowered. I accept the need to be “a people set apart”, and I can see some of the benefits that come from a self-created homogeneous culture. But I also think that it didn’t go unnoticed to the G.A.s that the U.S. didn’t seem to completely trust the consummate Peter Priesthood, Mitt Romney. Easy, fast access to information is opening the world up and bursting the bubble we’ve created over the years. I definitely think we’re slowly headed in the right direction.

    Susan: If God didn’t want me listening to death metal, why did he make it sound so good?

    Comment by kwk — April 7, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

  14. It’s hard not to feel like a misfit in a ward where you’re the only married woman without kids, married to a man with poor health (hence no kids).

    Comment by T — April 7, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

  15. The sort of sad thing is, we fit into this ward better than any other we’ve lived in, because we live in a surfing community, and my husband’s a surfer/snowboarder/bmxer/skater/etc. So at least there’s fellow surfers there.

    T, I’m sure anyone without kids (and also singles) feel really left out in general.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. kwk: I wish you were in our ward. :)

    Comment by Susan M — April 7, 2008 @ 6:57 pm

  16. Thanks for the reminder Susan,

    While not appearing very misfit-ish, I have certainly felt like one all of my life in the church. One of the great things about being married with kids is we form our own little tribe. As long as they accept me, I’m ok. I agree that muct be much harder for the single and childless….

    Comment by cj douglass — April 8, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  17. I am such an oddball in the church. Life in general too a lot of the time. But I really appreciate it now much more than I did in high school. I’ve totally made peace with it and I love it, which makes comments from other members (rare in our new ward) easier to bear. I find that being myself is a better missionary tool than showing people how much the church culture can make me change. Someone once told me I showed her the church really is for everyone. Granted, I’m not really all that far outside the norm, but there is a certain type of person who thinks I am.
    Some of the things that used to make me feel self concious are now my favorite parts of my personality. Funny the perspective that getting older gives you, yeah?
    kwk, my feelings exactly! I decided that if I have to change my appearance or buy a CTR bumper sticker to make people realize I’m LDS than I’m not doing a good enough job of just living the gospel. My life should be what makes me a person set apart, not my bumper.

    Comment by mo mommy — April 9, 2008 @ 8:20 am

  18. Susan: You sound like you belong in Mensa. Have you ever visited a local meeting? us.mensa.org

    As far as relationships in church, the main things that I find keep me connected are the activities, be as fully participating as you can.

    Another connecting thing, to counteract the misfit-ness, you and DH could do all your HT/VT-ing to make and keep contacts, and encourage your HTers and VTers to visit you every month. HT-ing and VT-ing are great for developing people/social skills.

    Yeah, your VTer/HTers and the people you visit/home-teach are assigned friends, but then that’s a good excuse for people who don’t make friends easily. “Aha! You _have_ to be my friend now! Bwa ha ha!”

    Comment by Booksilnger — April 9, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

  19. I find that though single and a misfit, over the years I have also become a little bit of an unapologetically outspoken misfit. Not to the point of being obnoxious, but not hiding who I am. I have been surprised by the people who look like piccolos, but appreciate me in my non-piccoloness. I started having fun dessert nights at my house, inviting over everyone or a different group each time. Due to it, there is a small group of us who have started to get together for orchestra night–and there are even a few piccolos who join us.

    My sister who is a wind instrament, but not neccessarily a piccolo is our new activities committee chair. I suggested a a poetry night, and we had one–where you could read anything (a shampoo bottle if you wanted). It was surprising well-attended, and most of our readers/performers were of the non-piccolo variety. It was the first activity in years that I loved. So, I would reccomend a non-piccolo to run the activities committee–or a few on the committee at least. Once they get over their horror of the idea of the activities committee, they start planning great activities.

    Comment by tkangaroo — April 11, 2008 @ 5:37 am

  20. I have to agree with Paradox about being “different from other people period.” Anyone looking at me would think I fit perfectly within the church and to a certain degree I do. I am absolutely committed to the gospel, but when it comes to relating to people and fitting in I just don’t connect.

    Comment by David — April 11, 2008 @ 8:13 am

  21. Bookslinger, are you saying I must be a genius? (Not so, but chances are good I’m autistic.)

    A poetry reading night would be really fun. Our stake had an open mic night, mostly teenagers singing and playing electric guitars, but it was also neat to see the little old ladies who got up to read poems or sing. There were some investigators who sang, too.

    Comment by Susan M — April 11, 2008 @ 9:03 am

  22. Susan, have you ever had a true IQ test? Most standard tests in schools don’t measure IQ any more, they are more geared to measuring achievement.

    I think there’s a high correlation between being a social misfit and intelligence.

    Your dessert night sounds great. That’s wonderful that you invited others without waiting for others to invite you first. I wish more members, especially singles, did that.

    Comment by Bookslinger — April 14, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

  23. Hi Susan, I really enjoyed your comments. Not having read yours yet, I wrote about Elder Wirthlin’s talk and used the same quote. Check out “The Cultural Hall.” Anyway I’m really glad there are a few of us misfits around. Loved your message.

    Comment by C.J. Warburton — April 17, 2008 @ 11:58 am

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