Adolescence is a confusing time for many. A lot of us tried to “find ourselves” during these years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, and often without even realizing what we were doing. Often, becoming a unique self draws sneers, criticism, and bullying, particularly in the unkind halls of middle schools and high schools. The easier thing to do is to follow the crowd, even if it means becoming something that isn’t true to ourselves.
But…is it bad to try to be like someone else?
In episode 2 of AnoHana (by the way, the complete title of this series is beautiful – Wikipedia translates it as We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day), Tsuruko, one of the six childhood friends, berates another of the former clan mates, Anaru, for trying to be like everyone else, particularly like Menma. Anaru, for her part, admits to herself that she did want to be like her old friend – seemingly out of both jealousy and admiration.
But what Tsuruko doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish is the differences between the people that Anaru seeks to imitate. Tsuruko equates Menma with the group of mean gossips that Anaru is hanging out with. One was a unique, kind soul – the other is a collection of cookie-cutter “mean girls.” Big difference.
When I was in high school, I never longed to be one of the popular kids. My graduating class was fairly small (less than 200) and I was on good terms (if not good friends with) many of the more popular kids, so perhaps that was why I never felt the longing others do. What I wanted was to retreat into a comfortable group of friends for any occasion, and I drifted from group to group on a daily basis – the brash, fun clique; the cute and smart girls clique (I inserted myself as the guy friend); and the nerdy, sarcastic, and witty clique.
Looking back, it’s hard to say if I was “myself” – after all, I didn’t really know who I was at the time. But I certainly (intentionally or not) tried to emulate a good friend – our would-be valedictorian. He was smart and hilarious, and our personalities clicked. He was also unforgiving, harsh, and stubborn – flawed just as we all are. Unfortunately, I think I copied his less desirous traits more than his better ones.
In the Christian life, followers of Christ are meant to imitate Him (I Corinthians 11:1). We are meant to emulate Christ in how we live. Unfortunately, being “Christian” has attained a connotation (here in the west at least) of being arrogant, stubborn, ignorant, and backwards. Christ was the very opposite of many of these things – He reached out to the powerless and needy; He condemned those who were arrogant and lorded their authority over others; He hated hypocrisy; He was learned; and He was unafraid to speak of and to do what was right. In other words – He’s one worth imitating.
As we go through life, it’s important that we not only discover who we are, but that we try to become the person we want to be. To become a better person, we need to look outside ourselves and to others who demonstrate the qualities we’d like to possess. It’s okay to imitate others, and in fact, it can be a really, really good thing.
Be like Christ.
Be like Menma.
Be everything you want to be.
Be better than you are.