6 The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the speech of the upright rescues them. (Proverbs 12:6)
16 Fools show their annoyance at once,
but the prudent overlook an insult. (Proverbs 12:16)
1 A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)
28 The heart of the righteous weighs its answers,
but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. (Proverbs 15:28)
My friend Jamie once described me as a French Baguette. I may be hard and crusty on the outside (yes, those were her exact words) but once you break me open, I am soft and sweet on the inside. I’m one of “those” people that if I don’t know you well, I expect to be insulted by you. This is in response to years of verbal “torture” from my two brothers and other difficult relationships that I have been in since childhood on into adulthood. Unless the degree of insult was relatively heightened, I would normally let the words slide off my hardened shell like rain drops off a newly waxed Jag. There were the few occasions, however, where I, the 5’2″ woman, would approach the 6ft male, stand firmly in front of him and respond with “If you ever say that to me again I’ll…” well, and we won’t go into the nitty gritty. Let’s just say I could stand my ground if I needed to.
I’ve learned over the years that none of these two responses worked very well. Having a “hard shell” might make me unfeeling to someone elses’ ignorance but it prevents me from receiving love or feeling love. Retribution for someone’s insensitivity would only accumulate more distance between two people who should have, considering the status of their relationship, been able to communicate in a much healthier manner. There is such a thing as boundaries and boundaries should be exercised. Enabling a unhealthy behaviour only makes the behaviour more unhealthy.
However, there is something to say for a kind word turning away wrath. It’s a hard road to follow but I am making an effort to make a habit out of being intentionally gentle and kind to people who in the past have been… well… jerks. This is something that can only be done with supernatural help from Jesus. But it’s not just responding with kind words to insult, it’s also what happens in our hearts in response to pain inflicted by others.
One important factor to keep in mind is that the opinions of man toward us just don’t matter. There is no way a man or woman could really know us to form a valid opinion of us… except for one man, a Jewish guy named Jesus. Yes, I hate it when people twist my words or judge my appearance or misinterpret my intentions but why should I hate it? Their words, their opinions, their judgments, even their high praises of me shouldn’t have access to my heart because they are seared by the curse of a fallen humanity.
It is even more interesting that once you decide this in your heart; (is this the correct use of a semi-colon?) once you decide to respond gently to insult and decide that the opinions and praises of others don’t matter, your relationships seem to be much easier than they have been in the past. You don’t feel the need to defend yourself. You don’t get offended and you even realize that the insults are in serious decline.
Oh and those that feel the need to use their words to wound. I suggest you read James 3.
I was having dinner with my very extroverted roommate a few years ago and she was chatting on and on when a phrase came from her mouth that was something like: “and she just doesn’t really hang out with anyone very often. I don’t think that’s healthy.” This comment resulted in a fun-loving discussion about personality traits and why some seem to be acceptable and some don’t. When I was traveling around Florida a few weeks ago, I was explaining to my girlfriends in the car that I love to spend time by myself. Heather was shocked and responded with a “Brooke! I feel so sorry for you!” Maybe there are times when it could be called isolation but I feel peace when I’m alone. I gain energy in this way. Without it, I sometimes think that I will go mad. Introverts make up only 25% of the population. We like to call the other 75% of the extroverted population “the mob”. It’s not unhealthy to be an introvert. It’s the way in which some people are wired. Below I have listed a few misconceptions about those with an introverted personality.
1. The most annoying misconception is that introverts are slow-witted… or well, dumb. In The Introvert Advantage Dr. Marti Olsen Laney explains that introverts are often labeled “slow” because they need to process their answers internally before they are able to share them with those who have questions for them. Introverts tend to have a lot of depth because they think about things thoroughly. When they don’t answer right away, extroverts often misconstrue this as the introvert being slow or even intentionally withholding information from the seeker. Often their “thinking” doesn’t register on their faces. They may just have a blank, dumbfounded expression, however, don’t jump to conclusions about this. There is a lot of data running through their brains. I’ve seen moments like this with Stuart Greaves, one of our leaders here at IHOP, who is a self-proclaimed introvert. Even in moments when Stuart is teaching he will sometimes pause for what seems like quite a long time. It is because he is processing his information before he speaks it on the platform.
2. Introverts are not necessarily antisocial. I love people. I like to hang out with close friends. Introverts tend to have a select group of tight-knit friends rather than a plethera of aquaintences like extroverts do. However, large groups of people freak us out. Not because we have some kind of weird paranoia but because we know that when there is a lot of people, it will result in us becoming very… very tired. Our temperments can only handle lots of people for a small amount of time before we feel like we might drop dead. Introverts can be very chatty… almost too chatty at times when they know a lot about the subjects they are speaking on, however, we need to learn to pace ourselves before we become over-stimulated. Oftentimes this results in our brains shutting down, foggy memories, and crankiness.
3. Introverts are not selfish (though we can be, just like anyone else). In fact, in order for us to be self-LESS we need that time alone to re-charge so that we are able to give from our hearts. Henri Nouwen speaks about this in Clowning in Rome. In order to live in a community and give of our lives, we need to have that solitary communion with God. This is where we develop the heart of Jesus to be able to love and serve those around us.
Sorry to make this post even longer than it is but I suppose I have been thinking about this lately because of a situation that I am finding myself in at the moment. I had yet another sleepless night last night. It was a night of wrestling with God to work out maturity in areas of my life. Though this is my personality, and I may be wired a bit differently than many people, I must realize that my life is not my own. When my life is not my own, then my time is not my own either, regardless of personality type. He doesn’t owe me anything. Because there is no way out of me missing half of the 40 day fast at IHOP, due to current managerial issues, I have to believe that there is something much deeper that the Lord is teaching me at the moment. My initial reaction is to whine, complain, and stomp my feet in aggravation but at some point I have to come to the realization that the kingdom is coming and if I am helping in any way (though in a very tiny way) to partner with the purposes of God on earth, than so be it. This is where the Lord has me for the time being and until He gives me the go-ahead, this is where I’m going to stay.