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Extroverts and Introverts, Who’s Wrong?

I think one of the worst things someone can tell an introvert is to “loosen up.” It implies that there is something wrong with them, or that they should be more like that person.  Just because two people are different, doesn’t mean that one of them is wrong. There are all different personalities, and they all have their place.

In my experience, most introverted people are also serious, and task oriented.  I think God made them on the introverted side so that they are okay being alone to focus on a task. I know that I personally can be quiet sometimes because I am caught up in my mind trying to plan something or figure out how to make something happen.  No, there is nothing wrong with me, I am not mad or depressed, I am thinking.

I think of extroverts as the “show.”  They are the ones who are out fellowshipping with everyone, making new friends and coming up with fun, crazy ideas.  They are the ones who get energized from being with other people. They like to be out in front.  If an introvert is around a lot of people or out in front, they usually need some quiet alone time to recharge afterward from having to be “on.”  Depending on the situation, it can be exhausting.

Introverts are like the internal workings of a machine.  A cuckoo clock is pretty with a beautiful bird coming out singing melodious tweets to signal the hour, but how does that happen?  There are all kinds of gears moving in sync.  A clock without the insides would still be beautiful and enjoyable and have a purpose of its own, but working together with the internal mechanisms, it accomplishes much more.  Likewise, if you take the covering of the clock away and only leave the insides, it will still function and be an amazing example of ingenuity, but could be enjoyed more and enhanced by replacing the decorative clock face and tweeting birdie.

You know what I’m getting at. Most of the things I have been successful at are because I have partnered up with an extrovert.  It’s one of the reasons God brought my husband and I together.  We are both textbook examples of an extrovert and introvert.  He has no problem walking right up to people he doesn’t know and striking up a conversation. I generally find a quiet place to sit and observe, or I seek out my “safe” people and stay in that comfortable circle.  I appreciate that he is that way because it makes me feel like I can get away with sinking back and allowing him to “represent” our family.

Additionally, he comes up with great ideas-youth group events, family vacations, etc. and he tells me about them, and I begin meticulously planning. Together we are a good team and generally whatever we work on is successful.

This can spill over into all areas of our lives, what our hobbies are, what music we like, what movies we like, what vacations we like to take. My husband’s favorite vacation was when we went to Florida and stayed in a busy condo on a busy beach at the ocean. My favorite vacation was when we stayed in a cabin in Kentucky.  One of my husband’s favorite hobbies is playing basketball with a bunch of sweaty guys, and I love to dig into a good book or work in the garden.  And just because I don’t like Skillet because I can’t understand what the heck they are saying, or the loud chaotic music stresses me out rather than relaxes me, doesn’t mean I need to “loosen up” (you know who you are), it means I have different tastes.

And so, God knew what he was doing. Not just with my husband and I, but with the whole human race. I am generalizing here. I know there are introverts who can also socialize well, and come up with fun, crazy ideas on their own (I have myself from time to time), and I know there are extroverts who can focus on tasks and successfully execute their own crazy, fun ideas (my husband can focus on studying and planning a sermon).   However, usually, introverts are gifted in being “thoughtful” (in the sense of retreating to their own thoughts), and extroverts are more gifted in socialization and vocalizing their ideas.  Imagine if the world were full of only extroverts, or only introverts? We would either all be having fun and talking about the ideas we’d love to see come to light but don’t want to sit and plan every detail for, or we’d all be shut up alone in our houses reading, or writing, or planning things we need an extrovert to present to everyone else. Yeah, I think God knew what He was doing.

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It Didn’t Matter Anymore, Grandpa

I don’t feel like the issue was fully resolved. I don’t feel that you completely understood where I was coming from or just how much you hurt me in those years of disconnect.  I don’t think you fully took responsibility for your part in it, though you apologized in your own way-not really ever using the words “I’m sorry.”

But it got to a point that I didn’t care. I hated not having you in my life and not really knowing my kids. I hated them not knowing you-the man who had had an immeasurable impact on who and what I had become.  The hole didn’t go unnoticed. I spoke of you often and then, like today, I felt you in many of my words and actions. There were many, many days in which I wanted to let it all go, and I would call you and see that you were still bitter. I don’t blame you entirely, perhaps I could have put in more effort.

I know that in that time (the few years in which we only spoke a couple of times a year), all the comments you made about being disappointed in me, or about my “head not being in this world” came from a place of hurt.  I know from experience, that pain often manifests itself as anger and bitterness. I know it was hard for you when I “stopped needing you” as much, as my own family was forming. What you didn’t understand was that I still needed you, just in different ways.

So, perhaps the God-ordained timing was just right, perhaps we were both at a place in which it didn’t matter anymore, but that one summer visit changed it all.  I am thankful that I had an “excuse” to come over to see my Aunt, (I’m not sure I would have come otherwise,) so I could see that the bitterness was gone. I felt we were finally both in a place to let it all go and just be Grandpa and Cyndy again. I told you I was sorry I had stayed away so long, and you told me I had misunderstood the things you had said to me about not finishing college to stay home with my son, and the comments you made about me homeschooling the kids as they got older, and that you didn’t mean it the way I took it. In my mind I disagreed, I still thought you had meant them exactly as I took them, but at that point it didn’t matter anymore. You told me you were never truly disappointed in me, and I took that. It was enough. You were 87, I believe, and I knew we were limited on time.

We found out a year later that cancer was widespread and aggressive. My emotions were so mixed as I was thankful that we had reconnected, and deeply saddened that we didn’t have more time. My older kids would remember you, but my little guy definitely wouldn’t.  I was thankful that you got to see me in my girls and it brought you back to when I was that age. And I will forever be thankful for that visit, right after I found out about the cancer, when it was just you and I, and I was your little girl again. It could have been 25 years prior and it was just us.  We reminisced about the past and you retold your favorite stories about us, and we laughed, and I cried. I told you that I wished we had more time. You said, “I guess our time was always limited, we just didn’t know how limited.” More words of wisdom, Grandpa-good for everyone to remember.

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If They Don’t Like Me. . .

I have heard people say, many times and in different ways, “This is who I am. People can like me or not.” One of my favorite interpretations may be my late Grandpa’s version-“He’s got a real ‘go to hell’ attitude. If you don’t like it, you can go to hell.’” Maybe not the most appropriate, but my grandpa wasn’t known for his propriety. He was known for cleverly saying what other people were thinking, but in such a way that you laughed at yourself. But this post isn’t about my grandpa. Though this quote highlights the fact that rarely a day goes by that I am not reminded of him in some way-whether in my thoughts or actions.

Back to my point. I have actually said versions of that. I used to be a great deal more concerned about what people thought of me. I also used to keep much of myself behind a wall, worried that if people got to know me really, they wouldn’t stick around long. I’d like to say that I have completely overcome all of that, but I still continue to work it out. This is why I have said in recent years things like, “They’ll either like me, or they won’t.”

While I completely agree that there is validity in that statement, I don’t think that it can necessarily be a hard and fast rule. Let’s see if I can make my point this way.  I had someone say to me recently that I “used to allow myself to be offended by” things they would say.  Now, unless I am hearing that wrong, there is absolutely no responsibility on that person’s part. It couldn’t possibly be that he/she came across harshly, or maybe said something he/she shouldn’t have, or at least in a way that he/she shouldn’t have said it.

It got me thinking about our approach with people. Most people act a little differently depending on who they are with. They know what specific people will and will not appreciate, what may or may not offend people, and how they may need to act to keep the peace. If done correctly, it isn’t an issue of not being true to who we are.  It is actually Biblical. Romans 12:18 reads, “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” If there is someone we simply cannot get along with, or continue to offend, the answer is to make sure it is in no way our faults.

It may take a little finesse on our part to get along with certain people.  “I’m not changing who I am just to get along with someone,” people might say. I think we all have different aspects of our personality that come out at different times. God spoke to people in many different ways. He spoke to Moses in huge spectacular ways. Yet, he spoke to Elijah in a gentle voice. In which case was God not being true to Himself? If God altered His approach based on who He was speaking to, and how He believed they would respond, shouldn’t we do the same?