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What Kind Are You?, by Thom Lemmons

    “There are two kinds of people. . .” How many times have you heard that phrase, followed by either a pithy aphorism or a gross oversimplification?

    But wouldn’t it be nice if humanity really could be easily divided into two neat categories? Givers and takers, haves and have-nots, winners and losers, dog people and cat people . . . Usually, the arbitrary “either-or” which follows tells you more about the person choosing the classifications than about the general population she claims to be describing.

    Nevertheless, and with fear and trembling, I propose that there really are two kinds of people: those who reconcile their bank statements to the penny each and every month, and those who are just grateful if the overdraft notice shows up within forty-eight hours of payday.

    Without tipping my hand as to which category I’m in, let me just say that I’m all for accuracy, as long as it doesn’t take on a life of its own. You know what I mean: the sort of uncompromising perfectionism that causes certain types to stay up until three AM trying to figure out why they’re twelve cents long; those driven individuals to whom the CPA’s concept of “materiality” is a sloppy excuse for inexactitude.

One is governed by law. The other relies on grace.
    It seems to me that these opposing archetypes illustrate two different approaches to life. One is unswervingly bent on doing it right, on following the rules and reading the installation manual. The other is just as well-intentioned, perhaps, but less linear. One insists on documenting and quantifying every transaction. The other tends to be a bit hazy about cause and effect, less punctilious about balancing the equation. The one is governed by law. The other relies on grace.

    And maybe here’s where the two sides find common ground. Because all of us—even the most rigidly analytical, the most insistent on procedure and results—all of us get overdraft notices from life. All of us know, in our deepest hearts, that human existence isn’t a zero sum. Creation isn’t black and white. The ledger doesn’t always balance. The guilty aren’t always punished, the worthy aren’t always rewarded, and the distinction between the two isn’t always apparent. None of us can perfectly keep the rules, even the ones we make up for ourselves. When was the last time you maintained all your New Year’s resolutions for 365 consecutive days?

    We all need to be able to write off the difference, to say, “close enough,” to forgive others’ debts as our own are forgiven. And maybe that’s the toughest part: to do for others what we all—whether we admit it or not—need to have done for ourselves. As it turns out, there’s only one kind of people: the flawed kind.

    And now, you’ll have to excuse me. My bank statement just came, and I’m wondering how many checks I forgot to record. . .


HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-97, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
Article Copyright 1997, Thom Lemmons. Used by permission.
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