Why is it awkward being around individuals who are different from us?

In this video, counselor David Powlison first addresses how to relate to people with autism, then zooms out beyond this question, addressing our struggle to relate to anyone who is markedly different than our pool of acquaintances. Think different race, different language, or physical handicap. Are there a few reasons for this awkwardness, or one main reason? And how should Christians overcome it?

I am greatly helped by seeing such people, if Christians, as “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). As such, I need them and they need me. If they are not Christians, I am helped by seeing them as potential fellow heirs. As such, I need to imitate Christ and they need to know the good news.

I was most surprised, however, by Powlison’s inclusion of extraordinary beauty in his list of what makes someone different. The inclusion makes sense, though. I had a friend in college who was bewitchingly gorgeous. Sadly, much of my friendship toward her was subconsciously animated by her outward appearance and the favor it got her from the world. I am disappointed not so much in my own shallowness as the opportunity I missed to be a true friend to her. I should have been “rooted and grounded in love” in Ephesians 3 fashion.

More thoughts, anyone, on what a biblical view of this topic would be?


Human intimacy of any kind seems to me to have a natural tendency toward exclusiveness. If A is one's friend(kinsman, lover, fellow citizen, colleague, coffeehouse companion, whatever) and B does not fit the requirements then B is not so. This fact is sad but ignoring it will not make it go away. Nor will an general benevolence as that usually turns into patronage rather then love(if you say all men are your brothers, that may mean you think your brother is not your brother). Human love is not charity until given the grace to become so and this is one of it's drawbacks.

Furthermore, a stranger is a potential rival. That fact is almost as old as time.

That is part of my answer to the general question of why it is awkward being around people different from us. One just has to deal with the fact and pray for help. One partial solution is to actually try to take an interest in the differences that make someone else different. But that has it's own disadvantages; it can make someone feel like you think him a zoo specimen. But in any case one cannot totally change the world; one can only do one's best within it.

In my case sometimes my problem is not so much my rejection of another as it is fear of hurting them. That would certainly be the case if I was near an autistic child.

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