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The Art of Choosing and Uniqueness

July 1, 2010

I would love to continue a look at the book The Art of Choosing here. We love our choices here in America. We also love the idea that we are unique and one of a kind. I have actually discussed both of these in other places while discussing books like The Paradox of Choice or The Narcissism Epidemic but I wanted to take it in a little different direction today.

In the book The Art of Choosing the author Sheena Iyengar explores the idea of being unique. She actually highlights several studies in this area. In one study they gave people a list of names and asked them to choose those that would be good for a child. The list ran the gamut from the common and cliche to the far out and extreme. Now, people like to consider themselves unique and because of this they like to make choices that they believe will reflect this fact.

What do you think happened when choosing names? Obviously no one picked those considered common, but what about the names on the other end of the spectrum, those that you would think guaranteed the name would be unique? You have probably already guessed, people didn’t choose them either. The truly unique names, kind of a whose who from the Old Testament, were judged to be strange and odd. Certainly not suitable for a child’s name.

This pattern followed all of the studies about uniqueness and choice. People only wanted to go so far. No wonder so many children have the same unique name. How ironic that in an attempt to be unique we actually are just conforming to the group.

This has several implications for the church today but it has me thinking about change. How do you move the church to radical change if the change seems so unique that people will automatically reject it? Is there any real hope of getting people to see the mission differently if that mission seems so far removed from what they are accustomed to?

No wonder much of change in church is simply a dressing up of what we already do. Change the songs or the style of dress or the format or the seating and change because that is unique and yet true radical self-sacrificial discipleship? That is way to far removed from what we currently have. Judge a church not by facilities but instead by how well they love their neighbor? To far down the spectrum for me.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree? Does this mean we should aim much lower when making changes?

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