When I first met him, we were both students of the same physical art form. He was a full-time student at a full-time school that taught mime and ministry. I was an intermittent attendee of mime workshops hosted by that school/ministry and a full time student at a Christian liberal arts college studying youth ministry. I went on to seminary to study theology and arts, hoping but never managing to pursue mime training in a greater capacity; I remain a student-apprentice. He completed the apprenticeship, the journeyman-ship and is now a master in his art form. Even more so he was then given the reigns to take over leading that same school and ministry. He is a man of God who excels in his art, a highly intelligent man who perceives deeply and a passionate man with a heart for God and people.
In other words, I greatly admire him and therefore his words carry weight in my consideration.
I tell you this so that you will understand where I was coming from as I tell you the rest of the story.
I got to see him again the other week. First time in two years. He was performing (with some other friends) and I got down there shortly before the “mime concert” (as it is called) began.
In situations such as this you really only have a few minutes to speak to and attempt to “catch up with” each person. Which is near impossible to begin with and if you know me at all (or have read even a few of my posts) you know that I love words and stories and details. And connections (but I’ll get to that another time). Not to mention how many introverts such as I have a near-phobia of small talk – not because we don’t like people, but in that “small talk” feels disingenuous or superficial to us when we prefer to connect more deeply. The whole polite society “how are you doing? Fine, and you? Fine” thing is lost on me. It feels like an outright lie or, at best, an ineffectual communication of anything of value.
So when my friend was asking me how I’ve been doing and what I’ve been up to, I quickly searched for an answer which was genuine, descriptive and succinct. Plus I was fighting feelings of guilt like I always do when someone who has experienced my excitement and lofty hopes and dreams in one of my passion areas asks about how it’s been coming along and the truth is I haven’t really done anything more with it… Somehow I managed to mention how everything had been rather put on hold with more than a year’s worth of roller coaster health issues but now I am on the upswing and starting to look ahead again. And somewhere in there I rattled off something about mime, tea, writing and teaching.
“Ah!” says he, “Multi-talented!”
And I bit my tongue.
I bit my tongue because of how his eyes lit up when he said it and how genuinely his response came and because of the great respect I have for him as a person of talent, as an artist and as a man of God. And I bit my tongue because I was suddenly very aware of the reaction I would get from him if I tried to dispute his comment.
“HA!” I wanted to respond.
“I wish!” I wanted to cry out.
“I’m barely mediocre at best in each area!” I wanted to explain.
But I bit my tongue.
And I allowed the words he had spoken to carry the weight they were meant to… past my doubts and defenses and into the very core of me where I needed to hear – and accept – them.
And the moment stuck out to me.
And in days after I tried to let his words and his perspective take root.
Because it is something I’ve struggled with a great deal over the years.
These varied passions and interests and, dare I say, talents of mine.
Then several days back I came across an article that really helped to explain my struggle.
I almost didn’t read it.
After all, the title was “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert” and I well know (and am sure most who know me do, too) that there is no secret at all that I am an introvert!
But I was curious as to what the 23 characteristics were and so I read it.
And I am so glad I did.
The article brought up characteristics (and perspectives of characteristics) that I had never really noticed before. So many things made more sense than they had before. Such as the dislike of small talk as previously mentioned as well as a distaste for networking. Why I hate phone calls so much. Why I’m so easily distracted. Why downtime is not something I struggle with like I see others do. Why my blood pressure has always been good and low. And why I prefer to single-task.
#12 is “You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.”
Herein lies my problem.
For while in all other areas of personality for which I’ve taken tests I tend to fall towards the middle between two categories (sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, etc), with introversion I seem to be about as textbook as they come.
It’s no wonder I struggle so much with having these four main areas of passion and, er… uh… talent!
What is a “textbook introvert” to do with these four only tangentially related areas of passion and interest? When I try to focus on one (or even two), I begin to feel off-balance and like something is missing in my life. Sometimes I think that maybe one or two of these areas was a phase and I’m no longer meant to pursue it now. Yet I find the same excitement and energy and I’m-in-the-right-place-ness whenever I begin to talk about or act on one of them. Each one of them. I have a friend who can confirm this. My face quite noticeably lights up with each one. Yet how is one to divide attention and time and focus and priorities and commitment to excellence (not to mention health and energy) among four different things?
Especially when one is an introvert and this seems to go against one’s very wiring?
You know, I try to take these “personality tests” and characteristics and distinctions and all with a grain of salt. Because while I believe it is really truly helpful to better grasp how I am wired and how others are wired and what is good about that and areas of weakness or common “pitfalls” and how we can better understand and relate to one another, I never want some test or category to have the last word or be an excuse.
“I can’t help it if I have a short fuse and explode all over people, that’s just how I’m wired!”
“Quit bugging me about putting dirty dishes in the sink, I’m just not a neat freak like you!”
“I can’t go to that event, I’m an introvert and I hate small talk.”
“We can’t work this out because we have two different personalities.”
Words such as those spoken by others (and sometimes by me) tend to get under my skin. Learning about personalities is meant to facilitate understanding, not make excuses.
And I believe that the beauty of God’s creation is that we are different and have different ways of seeing and thinking and doing and we are meant to work together in all of this. And I believe that part of the effects of sin is that each of our wiring is a little askew (hence the “pitfalls” we tend to and a more difficult time in relating to one another).
So because I believe that introversion is a good and beautiful personality trait and I believe that it is God who has wired me and given me these four passions and areas of talent, I have to trust that my Creator knows what He is doing.
Even if it means I’m a multi-talented introvert who never really becomes a true expert at just one thing.
That night at the mime concert I told my friend that I am currently seeking direction on how this all works together and praying and seeking to know how to proceed and how to prioritize… And I am. And since reading that article and grasping better why I struggle, I have something else to take in prayer to this Creator of mine who redeems and guides and sustains.
And there may also be a Venn diagram in my near future…