The 18th century nursery rhyme, “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” rightly identifies contrariness as an undesirable trait.
Still, there are times when it is good to be contrary.
When another person or group is being disparaged or demonized, we do not mindlessly absorb the opinions of others. We challenge demeaning assertions by speaking constructively. Though we risk being put down ourselves, at these times it good to be contrary.
It is good to be contrary in resisting fads. Whether in diet, fashion, toys, decor, education, business, or the church, people are readily captivated by current emphases. Some fads are harmless, but others divert us from our primary mission. Steven Sample writes, “The merits of new ideas should be arrived at as slowly and subtly as possible—and in many cases not at all.”
It is good to be contrary amid the vitriol of partisan politics. With many strident voices competing for our attention, it is wise to quietly listen to our own inner voice, reminding us of biblical values and priorities. And having listened, we must courageously follow and advocate the way of Jesus.
God’s thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:7-8). The teaching of Jesus consistently challenges our natural tendencies (Matthew 5-7). The apparent weakness and defeat of the cross is foolishness to many (1 Corinthians 1:18). Yet as Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “this is the very place God has chosen to encounter us.”
Our GPS to thread our way through hurtful conversations, current fads, partisan politics, and much else in life is to take up our cross (Mark 8:34). As followers of Jesus, there are times we must think, speak, and act contrary to popular opinion even knowing we will bear the repercussions of a contrarian style of life.
Quotes taken from Steven B. Sample, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership (p. 7) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Testament to Freedom (p. 426).