Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Personality Inventory? Once you saw “your letters” identifying you as an I-introvert or E-extrovert, or borderline, like I am, how did it make you feel?
Defined? Labeled? A typecast?
I wasn’t bothered at the time because I knew that I loved being with people sometimes, and preferred to be alone at other times.
Recently though a new acquaintance remarked that I was a quiet person. Me? Quiet?
What bothered me most is that I took it as a non-compliment!
Yes, I suppose I am now, I thought. But I am a better listener and I choose my words carefully . . .
I only wish.
So what made me switch? At one time I was labeled gregarious; my students described me as exuberant. While Bill and I were dating, ebullient was his word for me. (I had to look that one up. It’s just a fancy word for exuberant.)
Now I’m quiet. But, really, is that so bad?
Somehow, especially in this age of social media where discourse is fast and furious, it seems the quiet still aren’t getting their due.
Case in point
Several years ago when I was walking through the school office, I ran into the parents of my student, Mary. A thoughtful girl, Mary was an excellent student; she was just quiet.
Her dad teasingly asked me if Mary was behaving and added in fun, “When Mary was in the sixth-grade, she got a B in conduct. We were so excited we took her out to her favorite restaurant to celebrate!”
However, in spite of Mary’s quietness, I had (P) perceived something powerful in her make-up. So much so, I even had a dream in which I needed help, and I turned around and there was Mary with her two best friends (also quiet), right behind me, ready to assist. I suppose her strength was revealed subliminally. But it was still strength, quiet strength.
Speaking of Quiet Strength, that is the title of Rosa Parks’ autobiography. In a book I’ve only just begun entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain reveals how Parks serves as an exemplary model. Cain describes how the petite Parks and her quiet, reserved manner made a powerful statement when she said “No” to the bus driver that nation-changing day in Montgomery, Alabama. Martin Luther King, Jr., could not have made the impact Rosa Parks did. In turn, the world needed to hear “I have a dream” through the powerful voice and commanding leadership of King.
Which circles back to my point: we need all types; most especially, we need to value all types. God obviously realized that when He created us for specific purposes. So what makes us question and compare ourselves so shrewdly?
In Marshal Frady’s book Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life, King is quoted as saying,
“Each of us is two selves. And the great burden of life is always to keep that higher self in command. Don’t let the lower self take over.”
Naturally, we first think of the good dog and bad dog selves in battle. In a perfect world, we all would choose the good self, right?
Yet, in an imperfect world, we can at least learn to accept our God-given individuality of who we are–from birth through all of our delightful and tragic and finally lay claim to our best selves as an Introvert, Extrovert or Amnivert (both I and E).
So why are we E’s or I’s? Is it Nature or Nurture?
According to researchers, the consensus is both. We’re born one way (nature) and nurturing strengthens or weakens it. For example, let’s say Tina was born an extrovert, but circumstances/abuse/trauma in her life made her pull back and turn inward. John was born an introvert, but his environment demanded a more outgoing response for survival. Maybe, he learned to fake it, being all things to all people, missing out on who God created him to be.
We can’t know though if we live our whole world on a stage, as in the social media circuit. We have to encourage all of our generations the value of being our authentic self, to break away from the crowd, appreciate a few real sunsets, not just the ones on YouTube.
Another validation of our God-given nature is offered in Quiet. Cain cites Jerome Kagan’s longitudinal study at Harvard with the results revealing that some who are later termed as introverts are born with an amygdala highly sensitive to environmental stimulation. Thus, they tend to retreat from chaos to the safety of a quieter world as they grow older.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If one has the right nurturing, he/she can use that time to develop gifts and talents, better yet, minds and spirits. And let’s face it, to become adept at something takes time.
Nothing is wrong with being gregarious. But maybe we don’t need to hold it in such high esteem. For instance, when I was a shallow, chatty teenager, I didn’t have a clue who I was apart from my friends and phone. It was my older brother who made random comments that I needed to become an individual, to go deep. He even loaned me a philosophical book, totally unfit for the thirteen-year-old vernacular, on individualism. I read what I could and grasped its message from the description on the inside cover: I need to figure out who I am and be true to it.
The book’s words didn’t sway me though as much as the poster in my brother’s basement bathroom. Many of you know the passage from the final chapter of Thoreau’s Walden or from a poster in your bathroom: “If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.”
It echoed through my clique-y persona and tugged me toward courageously developing my authentic self.
And in my fragile world, searching, the power of a brother’s influence resulted, that is, when he was in a generous mood, a rare mood. Those few times I got to ride with him to his favorite mountain, I was dazzled by the setting sun over a lake in full glow. He consistently shushed me each time I tried to chat. I eventually absorbed the quiet time and the beauty of the earth.
Imagine how a teenager with no faith and father processed these tidbits into her storehouse. I eventually recognized though that I needed more than myself. And in finding Christ, I truly found myself through His life. But let me clarify my point: by looking into myself, I’m not referring to the inward selfish life taken that comes so easily. I’m not even disputing we should be like-minded in Christ. Not hardly.
I’m simply encouraging us, whether we’re an I, E, or A, to learn how to shut-off our phones and computers and saturate ourselves in the peace of God, who offers restoration for all who come.
This year, let your storehouse swell with faith in the Father and time well spent, learning the art of patience (James 1), the nourishing fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5), developing faith, not on others’ wisdom but on God’s power (I Cor. 1:4).
And as with each of you, realizing when those trials attempt to overwhelm you, you can go deep into your storehouse for the perseverance to overcome all He promised (Hebrews 10:35-39, James 1:2-18f).
In turn, we don’t just become a storehouse of godly character traits to store away, or worse, provide a facade for our public display. We purpose to live out those attributes, to reflect and respond. It’s our responses that declare what our heart-songs sing.
Since God set the rhythm in our beat, we take time to distinguish ours. Hopefully, this keeps us from focusing on the futility of outer works that robs us of His deeper quest to “Be still and know that I am God.”
Have you noticed when we realize who we are in Christ, we’re less critical of others, forfeiting jealousies because we know who we are?
“There is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” Eccl. 3:7b
“The Spirit teaches all things, even the deep things of God.” (I Cor. 2:10)
Allow yourself to be who God created you to be
Certainly, we should be our best selves, that higher self. If you’re uncomfortable with a crowd, develop your communication skills, but don’t be so hard on yourself if you’re not Tony Robbins. I know men and women who speak in public settings in classrooms and/or congregations, who are quite effective. They have much to say and have figured out how to say it. Yet, they confess that having to be in social settings exhausts them.
Maybe, that’s to their advantage and ours. For the time they spend alone reading, researching, playing an instrument, painting/drawing/sculpting, and writing feeds them. They, in turn, nourish us from their time pulled back from the world .
Take a minute to capture how one dog discovered his lifechanging purpose: SURFice Dog
What if you’re missing yours? Let God create you to be His purpose. Learn to value the diversity and beauty of who you arel. (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:6)