Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book: Introvert Power

Introverts are often misunderstood; even by other introverts. As Laurie Helgo, PhD, points out in her book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, if you live in America, then you live in an extroverted society and introversion can often be looked at by society as a problem or short coming. If we turn down an invitation to a big party, people will often wonder 'What's wrong?' Or if we say we need to be alone for a while, everyone worries. It's also quite common for introverts to think about their answer before they throw it out there, and this sometimes earns us a false impression of being 'slow'. Dr. Helgoe is a Psychologist and fellow introvert, who has written a great book that will help dispel some of these misunderstandings, and encourage introverts to be comfortable with their introversion.

In Psychology, Introversion and Extroversion are defined as preferences, not conditions or traits. Dr. Helgo describes the Introvert preference this way: "Introverts generally prefer a rich inner life to an expansive social life; we would rather talk intimately with a close friend than share stories with a group; and we prefer to develop our ideas internally rather than interactively." (p. 4) Introverts also prefer sharing ideas, over small talk. And we recharge our batteries through quiet solitary activities such as book reading, walks, meditation, movies, or intimate conversation with plenty of time to pause and reflect. While big groups, and loud parties tend to exhaust us. An extrovert, by contrast, is energized by big parties, large groups of friends, and spirited fast paced conversations with topics running all over the map.

In a previous post I said that I would love to be an extrovert but after reading this book, I'm quite happy and content to stay the way that I am. I really do enjoy my introversion preference and will quit worrying that I'm missing out on something just because I don't enjoy a big get-together. Instead I'll focus on what I do enjoy -- family, smaller groups with just a few friends, books, and solitude.

Dr. Helgo's book is meant to educate both introverts and extroverts alike, and there is much more to the book than I've mentioned here. She wants everyone to know that being an introvert isn't a handicap; we aren't slow, we aren't snobs, we aren't unsocial or anti-social. We just process differently, and introverts have many strengths that we can bring to society. So be sure to give it a read if you want to get some ideas on how to carve out some needed quite space in your life, or if you want to understand the introvert in your life.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Hypocrisy and Acceptance in a Culture stripped of Grace

Last night a good friend of mine, who is a Christian apologist, mentioned that one of the most common questions she is asked is the question of hypocrisy in the Church. Her typical answer to this question is to remind the questioner that the Church is made up of people, and people will fail. While this is certainly true, the fact that this answer is used and accepted points to something deeper in our culture; that is, we live in a culture stripped of Grace.
How many times have you heard of a coach that has gotten his team to the playoffs, but when the team loses the playoff game it seems that everyone is calling for his resignation. Or how about when a good pitcher has a bad day? For our culture, failure is not an option, and it seems that moral failure is equated with hypocrisy. This is of course a departure from the original meaning of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy by definition means that we would pretend to believe something that we don't actually believe, or to hide our true self behind a false exterior. And I believe that since we live in a culture stripped of Grace, this has become the norm for many; and maybe that is why we don't label it hypocrisy any more. We all tend to hide traits, values, or preferences that a particular group may find unacceptable. When in a church setting we may try to hide an addiction, or anger, or doubt. And in a group of our peers at work or at school, we may hide something as simple as still liking Disney movies, we may hide our feelings, or we may even go against our conscience. We do this because there is a deep longing for acceptance that we can't deny and, in a culture stripped of Grace, the last thing you would want to do is to admit your flaws. Oh we have our moments when the facade falls apart and everyone gets to have a moment of honesty, but then we are expected to get it together and move on.
I think the thing that drives hypocrisy, or hiding is the graceless culture we live in. I must admit that it's one thing to recognize that we live in a graceless culture, and it's quite another thing to practice grace. It's a struggle for me, a coping mechanism I learned early on was to not give second chances to people who hurt me. It will probably take a lifetime to unlearn that, but it is definitely something I will strive to do.