Monday, November 21, 2016

Live Out Loud

     Have you noticed? It's hip to be an introvert these days. Online quizzes, diagrams, stories, and personality tests have explained this enigmatic quality far too many times to be revolutionary, far too meticulously to be misunderstood, and far too popularly to be the profile of a minority. Everyone, it seems, is an introvert.
what is this, Monopoly?
     Why is introversion so popular? How is it that seemingly everyone relates? An introvert needs "alone time." Needs to recharge without the constant clamoring for attention from outsiders. Needs to have breaks from pouring herself into those around her. Needs to be able to focus on personal priorities.

     Or, to put it bluntly, an "introvert" needs to have moments of no accountability. Needs to be thought "special" instead of "selfish" in her insistence on being left alone. Needs to be pitied (instead of called out) when she is disgruntled from long-term interactions with others. Do these qualities - these needs - sound like descriptions of a misunderstood personality, or an egocentric individual, longing to be justified? 

     I'm not denying the legitimate differences between "introverts" and that mysterious, little-known mutant group dubbed "extroverts" (I love you guys!), but I do see a GREAT propensity - in my life and others' - to excuse everything short of murder in the name of, "but I'm an introvert!" After all, who doesn't love a get-out-of-jail-free card?*
I'd rather just keep quietly to myself
     All growing up, I was the bookworm in the corner. I remember, on multiple occasions, my mother pulling me aside and correcting me for reading while guests were present. I took books to parties, to dinners when I didn't know the family, to the store - they were my escape, and my parents had to work hard to keep me from disappearing into a self-satisfied loner at the ripe old age of 10.

     The most memorable time my father shoved me beyond my "I'm-shy-and-I-like-it-that-way" comfort zone was when he insisted I introduce myself to a fellow student (we attended a home school science class) to recite a memory verse assignment. I declined in no uncertain terms, claiming I wished to recite to him, but he was undeterred. Scooping up his tween daughter - who, despite her "shyness", had no qualms about kicking and arguing in front of the class as she was carried across the room - he deposited me before another student with the implacable declaration: "She would like to recite her verses to you!"

     When I look back on this winner of Mortifying Moments in Sarah's Life, I feel little (aside from amusement) beyond regret. I see now that what I then called "shyness", and later called "being an introvert", is nothing so noble, so glorious. It was, rather, a hearty blend of pride, selfishness, and the fearful sentiment that if I didn't know for sure that someone would like me, I'd rather not risk it. So I embraced the world's labels, and excused my recluse habits. It was safer, more comfortable, and happier to just keep quietly to myself. 
do I need a spotlight?
     There are those, on the other hand, who find the forefront of a group naturally. Whose personalities sparkle. Who have a quick wit, an open demeanor, and a magnetic charisma to which people flock. Those who carry within themselves the gift of making all around them feel loved, and important. These happy individuals (because, of course, they're always happy) are not necessarily seeking the spotlight; they simply live their lives there, unaware of the sentiments of the sideline shadows. But as a shadow who's struggling not to check out of the real world and into her own personal one, I feel the pressure. 

     If my tendency is to withdraw from life, to live focused only on those things necessary to me, to shrink from reaching out to others - if this is my natural, selfish preference, are the Ones in the Spotlight my models of complete death to self? Is that who I must become to live as God created me to be? Am I somehow broken, that it is so difficult for me to talk to the lady beside me in the grocery store, while my friend can entertain an entire room full of people she has never before met? Should I - horror of horrors - be in a spotlight?
not about the introverts
     My answer used to be yes - but I'm learning it's not true. As an introvert, I face specific challenges in reaching out to others, but identifying and overcoming "introvert" weaknesses,I've learned I'm learning, is not accomplished by pretending to be someone you're not. God has given each and every one of us - introverts and extroverts alike - specific gifts, talents, and strengths. As unbelievable as it may seem, these gifts are not tied to whether you'd rather spend your free time with a gang of friends at the mall, or with a solitary pot of tea in your room. These gifts are based on who God created you to be, and the tasks He has given you to do - and following His leading is not any easier for Spotlight-Dwellers than it is for Shadows. It requires stepping out boldly and running down the path He has laid for you, even when you can't see past the bend. That's the funny thing about following: it implies that someone is ahead of you; someone who partially obscures the way, but who you trust to know the directions.
Live Out Loud
     So, as a girl who'd much rather quietly read in her corner, I'm being taught to live loudly - but this doesn't mean I've magically become the sought-out one, or have found myself a spotlight. Building relationships with the two girls who sit next to me in class? It took a lot of determination to introduce myself and exchange phone numbers - but my Father loves them, so shouldn't I act like that? Paying for the coffee of the person behind me in the drive-through was nothing - but when, today, I wrote him a note to say I was praying for him, and encouraging him to look up a Bible verse, I was almost light-headed with panic just asking the barista to pass it on.

     The fabled extroverts would laugh. This is what it means to her, to live out-loud?

     Yes. Because to live loudly is to live beyond the bounds of my own, controlled little world. To reach out to those around me when I know they can offer me nothing, because I have something, Someone, they desperately need. To remember that grades at school, veggies at the grocery store, or coffees in the drive-through are not the purpose of my day, but a means to lead me toward the people - classmates and coffee addicts alike - who Christ asks me to love.

     And to love them, I must break my silence. Will you live out loud?

*Lauren wrote a beautiful article confronting the introvert mentality head-on, and I strongly encourage all you fellow-introverts to hop over and get a perspective shift

Photo 1 Credit Heigl, Michael. AKG K550 Loud. 12 June 2012. Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo 2 Credit Vanova, Photo. Untitled. 10 January 2015. Flickr Creative Commons.
Photo 3 Credit Barker, Kenneth. imagine what is over there. 6 June 2010. Flickr Creative Commons.


Ellie Templin said...

This post is definitely something I agree/identify with. Practically the whole section of "I'd rather just keep quietly to myself" was me growing up. Countless times my mom would grab the book from my hands and force me to sit with the group, or remind me to leave the book in the van, or gently rebuke me for hiding behind my "shyness". I put that word in quotes as, now that I look back, I see it was only me being selfish and not wanting to interact with those around me.
Thanks for the needed kick-in-the-pants reminder to not use my personality as an excuse not to reach out to others! :)

Kaytra Copper said...

I am so encouraged by this Sarah Jayne! Love - A Spotlight Dweller❤

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Sarah!

As much as extroverts need to try not to dominate, talk too much, overwhelm people, etc, introverts need to try to reach out, talk more, etc.

We can all meet in the middle :).