I have this one amazing dress. I wear it often; I wear it to work, out with friends, and to church. It is a beautiful color that seems to shift from one shade to another depending on the lighting and my surroundings. I often get compliments on this outfit. I even feel like people like me more when I wear it. It is my yes dress. Even the name of it sounds pleasant.
I thought for a long time that agreeability was a good, even enviable trait to possess. I am able to avoid arguments, make friends, and keep people happy just by being agreeable. I stay out of political and religious frays, and I don’t have to worry about offending anyone. Being agreeable has saved me some uncomfortable moments and has made my life fairly simple.
The Free Dictionary defines “agreeable” as: ‘ready to consent or submit; disposition or tendency to yield to the will of others.’ I have mixed feelings as I read that. I think there are healthy times and situations to submit and yield to someone else’s will, but this definition sounds like it is about a weak person, someone who doesn’t know what she believes or thinks, or is too afraid to say it if she does. I’m not so sure as I read this if this is the definition I want to stand out about me.
I remember as a teen learning Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what the Lord’s will is–His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” At that time, we spent most of our time talking about peer pressure and the importance of nonconformity. But I didn’t have too much trouble with peer pressure. I had good friends, I knew what I wanted and where I was headed, and I rarely felt coerced into something I thought “went against the will of God”. In fact, I would venture to say that as I have aged, my bent toward agreeability has pushed me more toward compliance to worldly ideas. The conversations as an adult living in this time in history are much more coercive to agreeing with the majority or at least to avoiding offense against any individual or group.
My agreeability dress seems less beautiful in light of Paul’s words. Replacing ‘agreeability’ with ‘conformity’ feels uncomfortable, scratchy, a constant reminder that I am going against the power I have to have an opinion rooted in Truth and to speak my mind in love. Peter says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear’ (1 Peter 1:13-17). Later, Peter again calls us ‘temporary residents’ and ‘foreigners’, warning us to keep away from worldly desires.
I’m not certain why I feel so happy to be agreeable, to conform, yet so nervous and fearful of being a foreigner. I imagine it goes all the way back to the childhood desire to belong, to fit in, to keep people happy in order to avoid discomfort. I’m not sure what it would look like if I traded in my yes dress for a transformational one, but I believe that, while temporarily uncomfortable, I could grow to fit the expectations and the freedom of wearing Truth boldly.