By definition, dissonance isn’t a pleasant thing. In fact, Webster defines it this way:

DISSONANCE 1 a : lack of agreement; especially : inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and one’s beliefs b : an instance of such inconsistency or disagreement

2: a mingling of discordant sounds; especially : a clashing or unresolved musical interval or chord

When we hear the term dissonance, we might tend to think of something that rubs the wrong way or clashes. Something that doesn’t go together.

But as I was explaining to a student of mine the other day – In music, dissonance can be oddly beautiful and wonderful. As a musician, I actually love it when notes that don’t normally go together clash. Or when a song ends on an unresolved chord. There is just something different, something unique and intriguing about it.

The sound of dissonance strikes my curiosity and leaves me wanting more; Wondering if there’s something more to discover than what I’ve already heard and known.

Strangely though, in my personal life it is not my tendency to embrace dissonance. More recently though I’m learning to embrace it more than I ever have in my life. Especially in my relationships with people. However, I was raised in a church culture that promoted the exact opposite. Twisting scriptures and taking them out of context somehow gave leaders permission to teach that in order to be right with God, we should stay away from those who weren’t like us and do life only with those who were.

I find there to be at least a couple of huge problems with that philosophy.   

1. It is wildly far from the example Jesus lived out for us.

2. It promotes prejudice and thinking we are above others.

Which is in fact the very thing we were supposed to be avoiding in the first place – sin.

I think it is human nature to tend to gravitate towards people who are like us. People who dress, think, behave and believe the same way we do. And for the most part some of that isn’t a bad thing; but I think it’s more crucial and healthy than we realize to have people in the inner circle of our lives who aren’t like us. I’ll go so far as to say maybe it would do us a lot of good to make including a little dissonance in our social lives a much bigger priority.

I think it’s time we stop working tirelessly to make our lives our own idea of perfect. Maybe it’s time that we let in people with ways, ideas and beliefs that will challenge the things we’ve held so tightly to for our whole lives. Sure it might uncover ideologies and beliefs we’ve maintained for years causing us realize we aren’t even really sure why ever believed them in the first place – and maybe that’s a bad thing, but maybe it’s not.

Truthfully, what I’m learning about myself is that when I refuse dissonance in my life, and I only surround myself with people just like me; people that never challenge me, people that never push against who I am in the opposite way; what my own actions scream about me is, “I. AM. INSECURE.”

Notes on a page don’t have to change what they are because they have a note next to them clashing against them. And neither do we. But together, in all of their differences, they still have the ability to make the most beautiful strands of music.

So next time you’re tempted to “dump” that person from your life because they’re making you uncomfortable and rubbing you the wrong way, instead, consider pulling them closer and let the differences of who they are challenge your life.

Maybe we all just need a little dissonance to sharpen who we are and leave the rest of the world wanting more……

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17