“The thing about chameleoning your way through life is that it gets to where nothing is real.” (John Green), as seen on a recent post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog. A day later Jack posted this quote – “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” (Unvirtuous Abbey).
Do you know people who seem to have no opinions of their own or any firm moral ground to stand upon? How about the opposite types, those who refuse to change their opinions even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are wrong?
I’m not sure that “chameleoning” is a real word, but we probably all know what that means, or at least have something or someone come to mind when the term is used. Chameleons have the amazing ability to change their skin coloring as they need to in order to blend in with their surroundings. For them it is a defense mechanism. Perhaps that is also true for those who we know who seem to change with each situation that they encounter. They have what might be called situational ethics and go with the crowd in any situation in hopes of blending in.
Of course there are also those who are contrarians in every situation. Whatever the crowd is in favor of, they are against. Sometimes this is also a defense mechanism, since it allows that person to remain alienated and apart from the crowd. They often have deep insecurities that feed on the rejection and loneliness that their action precipitates. Their real fear may be of being accepted and being expected to act like one of the crowd that they are avoiding. Their defense becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, since they are rejected and left alone.
Taken to the extreme, neither of those approaches to life is very satisfactory over time. The person who is a total Chameleon will find that they have developed no basis for independent thoughts and actions when the crowd is no longer around. They may have no moral compass to guide them through life and may not have developed any real interests or passions of their own. They are unable to be “real”, because they may no longer know what “real” is for them. These might be the people from whom the day is devoted to “living” on social media platforms, who post what they had for breakfast, as if anyone really cares.
The total contrarian, on the other hand, will find that it is virtually impossible to live a fulfilling life totally apart from the rest of society and that interdependence with others is a key to establishing our own identity and finding true happiness. Interestingly even those who pursue the contrarian “Goth” lifestyle trend to congregate with others of that lifestyle, those creating a “crowd” of their own that they then try to fit in with. Eventually they come to realize that serving others is much more rewarding than being self-serving. Those who don’t come to that realization become what we call “hermits” and live apart from society.
The second little quote is not referring back to being Chameleon-like; but rather to not becoming so ridged in our beliefs that we become stuffy or obstructionists. I belong to several organizations in which the phrase “that’s the way it has always been done” comes up a lot. There is certainly a place for understanding the history of how we got to wherever we are at any point in time; however, to become inflexible about the future direction based solely on the past is wrong. Things change, new options that didn’t exist in the past open up and we hopefully learn from the mistakes of the past and consider new approaches to things. We remain flexible and don’t get bent out of shape by suggestions for change.
So, guard against the extremes of becoming a Chameleon and having no real identity or beliefs of your own or a contrarian and being against everything; however, remain flexible and open-minded enough to consider opinions and options that you may not have encountered before. The key to being flexible without going to the extremes is to have a central touchstone of moral values from which you can examine the options in front of you and upon which you can base your decisions. For most that moral compass is based upon common sense that is rooted in religious beliefs and values. If you can start with a strong sense of right and wrong in your life, based upon the teachings in the Bible, the rest of the decisions that you have to make are much easier.
As you start each day, get real. Start by setting your moral compass, thinking about who you are and the direction that you are intending to go that day; but remain flexible as the day progresses and open to new ideas, new people and new directions. As long as you have a strong sense of your own identity and your moral compass to guide you the journey will continue to be amazing and satisfying. Have a great week ahead!