Stay in any major city long enough and you’ll discover its social topology. The desirable communities in which to live and those to avoid. The chic restaurants and the banal. The people of stature and the ordinary. We make assumptions about people we meet based on their affinity with the social topography. If the west-side is affluent, someone living there is assumed to be of means. Social projection is one of the reasons real estate agents pay close attention to the cars they drive. But when it comes to life purpose, social profiling is patently shallow. Can economic success be correlated with fulfilling one’s life purpose? In fact, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest the contrary. Some of the least socially noteworthy have left quiet, yet rich legacies. Merton’s quote is an invitation to go deeper than the social profiles we put on others, for every one of us has been designed for a reason (Eph 2:10). There’s something we’re living for and, likely, something that’s holding us back. Yet, how often do we reinforce the shallow trappings of social-status identity by failing to draw out the purposes in others, especially those who are socially dissimilar to us? As the Proverb reminds us, “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.” (Prov 20:5)
Your thoughts? What’s keeping you from asking Merten’s questions of others?