You ever feel like you sometimes become a different person, perhaps to relate to others? That you bend who you are to suit the person or group you’re with? Like a chameleon, changing who you are in front of others – even if just ever-so-slightly?
You’re either genuine in your interactions with others or you’re not. Chameleons come in many colors – all dependent on their environment. Either way though, they change their colors. They do it to blend in. It’s one of God’s awesome creations. Don’t we metaphorically do the same thing? While they may do it for survival, we tend to do it for ourselves in one of two ways.
Currently, my Life Group is reading the book Beautiful Outlaw by James Eldredge. Eldredge briefly talks about how he finds himself adapting to his surroundings and makes a point regarding how we sometimes change because we care too much about what others think:
“What people think of me” is a very powerful motivator. It is still shaping us more than we’d like to admit. It shapes our theology, our politics, our values. I spent time today with a young man in the music industry; why did I use the term “dude” more than I usually do? Before that, I was speaking with a woman in ministry; I never used the term “dude,” but I did talk about “the Lord” a good bit. I feel like a chameleon. I “adapt” myself to the social foliage around me.
Eldredge talks about the first of what I would identify as two types of chameleons – those who adapt to relate in order to have them like you. Eldredge owned up to doing this, and I will too – because I’m also guilty. But there’s another type of chameleon we can find ourselves being.
At Southwestern Advantage (my workplace), our Director of Leadership Development, Lee McCroskey, has a training session called “Becoming a Chameleon.” Being a sales-based company, you can understand why we would train our independent sales force to sell to people the way they want to be sold. This makes perfect sense in the world of sales because you must establish a rapport that leads to trust. What this means is their behavior, attitude and emotions are identified and, in turn, somewhat mirrored or matched. People feel more comfortable buying from people like them or in the same emotional state as they are. This is adapting to the sales environment (like a chameleon adapts to its surroundings…).
I use to struggle with being a “chameleon,” believing I was not being myself. But then I realized: I’m not putting on a false front. Just like a chameleon changes with surroundings, I change with time and the situation. We all do. My goal each day is to relate, understand, show empathy, and share commonalities with each audience I address. The only reason I’m grounded as much as I may be in the colors I front, is because both at the beginning and end of the day, I give it all up to Jesus. When I sway, he steadies me. When I fall, he catches me. When I sin, he forgives me. And when I change my colors, I trust he will have the right colors for me.
Keep in mind Paul admitted to being a chameleon – as noted in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (below). Notice how he adapted to the people he was with in order to share Christ. As a Roman citizen, he chose to live differently in the presence of others.
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this to bring Christ to those who are under the law. When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.
Yes, just like James Eldredge, I adapt to the “social foliage” around me. While it often comes with the territory of my career, I will tell you this: While I may bend who I am, I don’t break – just like Paul! And that’s because I have a Savior who has saved me! Be who you are – the person God made you to be. If you change your colors, do it because you are growing into new colors, not to camouflage the real you God made in his image.