If I had to describe in one word what these past couple of years has represented in my life, it would be the word “healing”. Healing. When I see it typed out in front of me, it doesn’t nearly hold the significance and power that I feel inside me.
So often we think of the word “healing” to mean a physical healing in our bodies. Very rarely does our society, other than people of faith, think of healing in regards to emotional and spiritual matters, and yet this is the very healing that often times has such strong, holistic power that it also brings healing to the body.
Healing literally means to “make whole”. From personal experience, there is no better way to be “made whole” than to be set free from addictions, hurtful habits, painful memories, negative thought patterns… and begin to fill that deep, dark pit with things that bring Life: forgiveness, a thankful heart, righteous thinking, and a genuine love that shines through even on the darkest of days.
The most impactful part of my healing process was when I began to search for the answer to the question: “Who am I in Christ?” Not just what the Bible tells me I’m supposed to be in Christ, but who has he made ME to be?
As a child growing up, I had always struggled with the acceptance of myself, personality and all. This lack of a healthy confidence continued into my teenage years and on into adulthood. So I knew I needed to begin at the very root of the problem, coming to a place of self-acceptance and a healthy self-love.
I’ve always loved taking personality tests. It’s fun to take a test and then see my results on paper. It makes me feel “understood”, like there’s a place for me in this big world. But up until just a couple of years ago, I had no idea how to accept these test results joyfully. I didn’t know how to “play to my strengths” so to speak.
One of the traits these personality tests reveal in a person is their natural temperament, whether introvert or extrovert. Every time I would take one of these tests, my results clearly showed that my temperament is far more introverted than extroverted. In fact, on the continuum between very introverted and very extroverted, I fall pretty heavily on the side of introversion.
Unfortunately, growing up, I was never told the strengths of being an introvert. Instead, I remember hearing the negative aspects: unsociable, self-centered, highly-sensitive…
After hearing enough of these false perceptions of introverts, I had developed enough insecurity centered around my own natural wirings that I began wishing so desperately that I could blend in with what society clearly accepted as superior; I longed to be an extrovert.
If only I was extroverted; I’d be the “life of the party”! I’d have energy to do more and be more in this life. I wouldn’t be so quiet and reserved all the time. Instead, I would speak my mind clearly and not be afraid to do so. If I were an extrovert, I would have lots of friends so I’d never get lonely. I’d be confident and energetic, always ready for fun and adventure instead of being so structured all the time. And I’d be a quick thinker and a quick talker. At a moment’s notice, I’d be able to express my thoughts boldly and effectively instead of needing so much time to process and mull things over before sharing my opinions. How I longed to be more extroverted!
Instead, I was and still am, naturally very introverted. I enjoy being alone and gain energy from solitude. I like hanging out with family and friends one-on-one and in small groups, but larger group activities drain me and tend to cause me a bit of anxiety. Too much external stimulation overwhelms me, and anything outside of my normal routine takes a toll on my energy level. I prefer depth of knowledge over breadth of knowledge and need time to process new information before sharing my opinion on the matter. Sometimes I feel like everything I do is at a slower pace than others. I learn at a slower pace, complete tasks at a slower pace, think at a slower pace, talk at a slower pace; I even eat slower than most people.
Growing up, I always thought these were character defects, that something was wrong with me. Little did I know, these characteristics are very typical for introverts. Often times, I have felt misunderstood, overlooked, and lost in a world that seems to cater toward the extrovert.
Therefore, if I were to truly come to a better understanding of “who I am in Christ”, I knew I had to throw off everything that hinders me from embracing the way He’s made me, including the shame I felt toward my introversion.
One of the things God has made me is an introvert. No longer did I want to feel self-conscious of this natural wiring. I wanted to learn how to embrace my introversion rather than resist it.
God led me to discover a couple of books written about introversion, written by introverts, and through the process of studying these materials, I began to realize how desperately the world needs both extroverts and introverts. That there is no superior temperament, and the fact that our society has developed false perceptions of introverts shows how badly the world needs introverts who embrace their God-given personalities.
‘Our culture values and rewards the qualities of extroverts. America was built on rugged individualism and the importance of citizens speaking their minds. We value action, speed, competition, and drive. We live in a culture that has a negative attitude about reflection and solitude’ (qualities that come quite naturally to a more introverted individual). Unfortunately, ‘introverts are outnumbered about three to one. As a result, they must develop extra coping skills in life because there will be an inordinate amount of pressure on them to shape up, to act like the rest of the world. The introvert is pressured daily, almost from the moment of awakening, to respond and conform to the outer world.’ Because of this, ‘as a society we don’t see introverts accurately because we are looking at them through a lens of incorrect assumptions. Most introverts don’t understand their own temperament because they have grown up with their own misconceptions about introversion.’
The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D.
Introverts’ wounds usually begin in childhood and set us on a path of self-criticism. Therefore, healing is essential for the wounded introvert. It dare not be downplayed or suffered through in silence as I did for years. It must be dealt with straight on as you would a serious illness. Satan comes to kill and destroy in every way possible, and the mind is one of his favorite places to attack.
One of my favorite passages in these books on introversion explains so effectively my healing process and how I came to embrace my introversion:
Introverted wounds bleed in our minds and hearts, and bleed out in our behaviors, actions and relationships. The healing program for introverts, therefore, must also move in two directions: in and out, deeper and wider. As we seek to embrace our God-given identity as introverts, we journey inward. We seek the freedom and peace of self-acceptance, and we learn to identify and appreciate the gifts God has given us. But we must also move in an outward direction, into the realms of action and relationships, which further confirm our healing.
Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam S. McHugh, Th.M., M.Div.
For years, I lived in defeat, feeling ashamed of my natural temperament. Since finding these resources of hope for the wounded introvert, I’ve slowly learned how to embrace my introverted ways instead of trying to fight my natural tendencies and foolishly try to pretend to be someone God never intended me to be.
I’ve learned to give myself grace when it takes me longer to gather my thoughts together to share an opinion I have on a topic. This technique has been very beneficial to me when it comes to having conversations with others, whether family, friends, or co-workers.
I’ve also learned the importance of taking time to celebrate my victories as an introvert: attending big parties, speaking in front of a group of people, sharing my thoughts and opinions to others, trying something new, etc. Even if no one else recognizes my victory, I take time to celebrate with my Lord.
In addition, I’ve learned the importance of refueling my energy-tank as an introvert: setting up healthy relationship boundaries and recognizing when I need time alone to rest and reflect, getting enough sleep and eating well, and most importantly, one-on-one time with my Lord and Savior who is the Source of everything I will ever need.
Not only have I experienced the Peace and Freedom of self-acceptance and a healthy self-love, but I also find that my relationships with others have become stronger because of this change inside me. Because I’m content with whom God has made me to be, no longer do I look to others for acceptance or to determine my worth. I’m also quick to celebrate with others as they make new discoveries along their own life-journey. This allows for healthier, happier relationships with others. And I know that makes God smile. 😉
My journey of healing these past couple of years has been multifaceted. I’ve experienced healing from a negative self-image that had developed as a child and only worsened as I grew into adulthood. Healing from deep, self-inflicted wounds in my soul that Satan kept harassing me about for years.
I’ve experienced healing as I’ve discovered how to embrace being me, introversion and all. And throughout that healing process, I have come to understand the power of The Healer. The healing that I now claim as a part of my life story is all because of The One whom deemed me worthy enough to make whole.
“Who am I in Christ?” I don’t think I know that answer completely yet, but I know I’m a whole lot closer today then I was a couple of years ago. And I have my Lord and Savior to thank! To Him be all the Glory and Honor as I continue to discover all I am meant to be in Christ my Lord! Amen!