There’s a line in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I always liked. It’s from the episode “Ensign Ro,” which introduces the character Ro Laren, a young Bajoran Starfleet officer who is a bit of a rebel. She was serving time in a detention center because of an incident in which she didn’t follow orders and several Starfleet officers died. Ro is released from detention to help the Enterprise crew with a mission involving the Bajorans. She’s made to feel less than welcome on the ship, and she’s not thrilled about being there.
Inexplicably, Captain Picard’s old friend, the wise bartender Guinan, decides to become Ro Laren’s friend whether she wants it or not.
Guinan: Am I disturbing you?
Guinan: Good. You look like someone who wants to be disturbed.
Ro: I’d rather be alone.
Guinan: Oh, no you wouldn’t.
Ro: I beg your pardon?
Guinan: If you wanted to be alone, you would’ve stayed in your quarters. The only reason to come here is to be among people.
Later on, after Ro does hide in her quarters and Guinan still tries to start up another conversation with her, the two women have this exchange:
Ro: Why is it that every time I tell you something, you tell me I mean the exact opposite?
Guinan: Because you’re one of those people who’s got their poles reversed.
Now, I’m definitely not much like Ensign Ro (I’m pretty far from being a rebel), but I often find Guinan’s assessment of her amusingly fitting for my own life.
As a kid who grew up going to church, Christian school, and a Christian college (all of which I’m thankful for), I’ve had the chance to listen to more than my share of sermons, messages, and advice. Generally, people want to help warn children away from the things that they think are most likely to mess them up. So you’re much more likely to hear someone talk about the importance of working hard on your schoolwork than you are to hear them talk about how to make friendships and have fun with people your own age. Because there are plenty of cases of people regretting not taking their studies seriously, but kids automatically know how to have fun with each other, right?
But what if you “have your poles reversed,” and doing schoolwork comes naturally to you, while making friends is hard? For a while, you’ll probably think you’re doing even better than most of the people around you! But eventually, you might feel that you missed out on gaining the social skills and experiences that other people take for granted.
Similarly, it’s common to hear a lot of messages warning against thinking too highly of oneself, of becoming prideful. But what if your wiring is “backwards,” and the way you fall victim to pride is by tearing yourself down, expecting you will mess something up, and keeping track of your mistakes? Like an undead enemy in an RPG, what’s meant to be healing can actually poison you (and even weirder, what others think is harmful may actually be what you need most!) Weird analogy, I know. 🙂
I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining, because I actually think it’s pretty neat to be this way, now that I understand myself a little better. Sometimes I feel like laughing, because from where I stand now, the process of maturing mentally, socially, and spiritually is almost like a battle against conventional wisdom. It’s kind of like my “homework” is to spend time making friends with people, and my “chores” are to look for reasons to be positive about who God made me to be and to enjoy the good things he gives.
I have a hard time complaining about homework and chores like those!