Archive for April, 2010

Insecurity

One of the pastors at my church said recently in a staff meeting, “What would it be like to really open up to someone about your struggles and have him/her reply, ‘Ugh, you disgust me.’?” He asked, “Can you imagine if we confessed our sin to God and He responded like that?” Thank God that He does not reply like this, that we are able to go to Him without judgment or condemnation (Romans 8:1).

But in all honesty, it struck me that I say those words to myself so often when I have sinned or erred or somehow fallen short of where I think I should be. I am so quick to judge and condemn myself for my flaws, sins, and mistakes. And often I do not even realize I’m doing it.

I recently read on one of the blogs I follow that security (versus insecurity) takes intentional effort. We can choose to think securely and positively. Without intentional effort, our broken and sinful hearts will naturally gravitate towards insecurity, and we will begin comparing ourselves (sinfully) with either superiority or inferiority to others.

Insecurity is self-idolatry, because when we are insecure, we think only of ourselves. Humility is not thinking less of oneself, it is thinking of oneself less.  Obsessing over ourselves can mean that we are vain and conceited, but it can also mean that we are constantly feeling inferior, worthless, and anxious about ourselves.

Some lies I sometimes think about myself are:
I am unattractive and ugly.
I am worthless because I cannot live up to my expectations of myself.
I am unlovable because I am different.
My friends are not really my friends, they only tolerate me out of a sense of obligation.

Of course these thoughts are not true. But as I’ve written before, the evil one uses our circumstances to affirm the lies that we’ve always believed about ourselves.

I can make a conscious decision to think, “I am a child of God and dearly loved. How would a secure woman react to this situation?” I am beautiful to God because I am His daughter. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:4). I am free from condemnation. I am valuable. God did not make any mistakes when He made me.

I’ve been feeling a little insecure and neurotic the past couple of days, and I’m not sure why. Someone said something to me the other day that sort of bothered me, and that feeling stuck with me the whole day. It is just one person’s opinion about me. It really shouldn’t matter to me. My security is not found in the approval of other people.

I can be secure in the unfailing and unconditional love of God.

Advertisements

Reframing Loneliness, Part V

Why do I admit I am lonely apologetically, as if I am somehow inferior because I have a normal human emotion? At times, I feel guilty for feeling lonely. Really? That is nuts.

I have been writing of my struggle with loneliness. I don’t *feel* lonely all the time, or even often. Mostly, I feel lonely in the evening when I am coming home from the gym and my blood sugar is low (so I am more emotionally labile), and I know I am going home alone. I know there is no one who I will talk to before bedtime, no one with whom I can share my day.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Somehow our lives are infused with more meaning when we have someone to share our experiences with, someone with whom we can process our day. When we live in isolation, often our lives seem more trivial or meaningless.

So I feel a pang of loneliness for five minutes or so on most days, and then my mind is onto something else. Yet loneliness seems to be one of my biggest struggles. It is always present, even though I do not spend an inordinate amount of time feeling emotional about it.

When I think about it, it seems that God gave me my current circumstances. I do not believe that I am lonely as a result of specific sin that I did to “deserve” to feel lonely. In other words, I didn’t steal from/cheat on/try to murder my friends, thus alienating me from a support network. So where does the guilt and shame over my loneliness originate?

God does not desire that I be unhappy, nor is He the author of sin. However, I feel I can say with near certainty that God is at the very least *allowing* me to be in a place of loneliness. He is allowing my current circumstances.

When I came to these realizations, that the loneliness is okay and perhaps even a gift from God, I began to feel such freedom. In fact, I have been feeling so joyful that I feel lonely. I know that sounds crazy. But God is revealing to me that where I am in life is a gift.

My loneliness and pain are gifts because, simply, they are from God. They are gifts because they prompt me to seek God and build a closer relationship with Him. They are gifts because God will use my pain and subsequent healing in the lives of other people. They are gifts for reasons I do not yet understand.

And for the freedom found in embracing loneliness, I am joyful and thankful.

Purity of Heart

“Purity of heart is to will one thing.” -Soren Kierkegaard

Kierkegaard maintained that when we strive for two different ends, there will always be confusion and strife. When our minds pull us in two different directions, we suffer, feel restless and dissatisfied, and we second guess ourselves.

Many times, we want one thing in our minds, but our behavior does not follow.  We want to lose weight, for instance, but we continue to eat things that prevent that goal.  So, we feel restless and dissatisfied.  But there are larger implications of the issue of purity of heart when it comes to our relationship with God.

To will one thing is to center our lives around a unifying principle. Some unifying principles that may consciously or unconsciously shape the way we live are power, control, comfort, or approval. However, none of these will bring ultimate fulfillment. Only God will bring real fulfillment.

Often, I find myself feeling restless and anxious because I am willing two things simultaneously: God’s will and my will. God is in control of my life and wants me to submit to His plan for me, and His plan is far better than mine. When I get stubborn and rebellious (quite frequently) and try to take control into my own hands, I always end up making a royal mess of things. Yet it is difficult for me to give up control. The perception that I am “doing things my way” makes me temporarily feel empowered and in control. So I’ve got to pray again and again that God will help me put my life in His hands.

This is sort of a trivial example, but for the sake of revealing a personal struggle, I’ve been working on a project at work, and I am attempting to complete it using a new and improved method that will save me a lot of time once it is set up. However, doing it the new way versus the old way creates more front end work, in part because of the learning curve. I am impatient with the learning curve, and I like to feel in control, so I’ve been trying to complete the project using both the new and the old way, which is creating even more work for me. Rather than trusting that God is in control, I’m holding on too tightly to my control of the project, and I’m creating a lot of stress and extra work for myself.

Purity of heart would mean that God (or God’s will) is the unifying (and only) principle in my life. Of course, I am a human and a sinner, so that is impossible. But with God’s help, I can strive towards putting God first, as the center of my life.

As I grow in my relationship with God, it is getting more and more difficult to be rebellious against His will and to actually enjoy the rebellion (insert sarcasm font). It is becoming increasingly difficult to hold onto control or to seek comfort and approval from earthly sources, rather than from God. It’s difficult because I end up feeling so dang stressed and restless about things when I do them my way! Ugh.

Pearls of Wisdom

“Purity of heart is to will one thing.” -Soren Kierkegaard

So what does this quote have to do with anything? Well, nothing, other than the fact that I heard my pastor David* say it the other day, and, well, I’m a sucker for quotes by the father of existentialism (Kierkegaard), especially when spoken in a Christian church. See, I am convinced that existentialism and Christianity, even reformed Christian theology, are not mutually exclusive. But, I can hear you yawning, so I’ll move on to my next point, and the real reason for writing this entry.

David* periodically breezes past my office to and from his, and he always manages to drop some great pearl of wisdom as he goes by.

I do not cry frequently or easily, though I am generally comfortable with crying and feel it to be healing. But I swear, David seems to see right into my soul at times and with one tiny statement as he rushes past, tears are welling up in my eyes. How does he do that?

A few weeks ago, I asked David to set me up with someone, anyone, who he thought might be a good fit for me. He is very insightful and intuitive, and he knows a lot of single guys in my age range. He also knows me really well, and understands Myers-Briggs personality theory extremely well, and I have a lot of respect for him. There is probably no one I would trust more to suggest a potential date. He said, “I have 1,658 facebook friends, and I will find you someone.”

So yesterday, he called me into his office and said he cannot find one person to set me up with. I’m not sure if that is good or bad.

He said something to the effect that none of the guys he knows are good enough for me, and also that some of his facebook friends are married or lesbians, so that ruled those people out. I asked him if he thought I was too hard to handle, but he said no.

As we were talking, what he said that made me cry was, “You are special and precious.” Wow. He said that I was special and precious and deserved someone really amazing, and that none of the guys he knows could fit the bill.

I do not hear those words very often. I certainly never heard them growing up. That one little statement meant so much to me.

David told me that when I find the right person, I will think very highly of him and respect him a great deal. (Respect is a huge issue for me, and very crucial in how I perceive and relate to others.) He said that the guy will be so awesome that we will both feel like we do not deserve each other.

Well, David, thanks for making me cry, for making me feel sad but good, and for your wisdom and encouragement. I treasure it dearly.

*Names have been changed.

My Nemesis, the ESFP

In my last post, I noted that INTJs show they care by conducting research on their friends and love interests.  I was thinking about how others express interest/affection, and I was going to remark the following: “Notice how there’s no ESFP forum. They are all too busy dotting their ‘i’s with smiley faces to discuss their personality and various related issues.”

After I wrote that, I searched Google and actually found an ESFP forum. I was very amused at the differences between the INTJ and ESFP forums, which naturally reflect the very obvious personality differences in the authors.

INTJ and ESFP are terms for Myers-Briggs personality types. INTJ means Introverted-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging, and ESFP means Extraverted-Sensing-Feeling-Perceiving.

The ESFP is the INTJ’s “anima” in type relationship theory, whatever that means. I know they are opposites on all four dimensions of personality, and they have a very hard time understanding each other. They probably annoy each other, especially if they do not understand and appreciate personality differences.

One of the first questions on the ESFP forum that I spied is, “Do INTJs make you sad?” This struck me as extremely humorous, as at least one ESFP has said that about me.

Also, half the postings have smileys in the title: “A question for ESFPs 🙂 .“ I mean, is that really necessary?

In a post entitled, “What is your biggest problem in life?” people responded, “due dates and procrastination,” “handling too much responsibility,” “head in the cloud questions [from Ns],” and seriously this was a reply, “Problems? What problems? I ignore them until they go away or blow up in my face.” Each of these replies was punctuated with several superfluous smileys.  Are these really the worst problems an ESFP deals with?  Really?

The INTJ forum has thousands of postings, scrupulously organized by topics such as “Relationships and Dating,” “General Sociology,” and “Philosophy and Ethics.”  The ESFP forum consists of a few dozen posts, randomly thrown on the site’s wall.

On the ESFP site, I noticed an awful lot of abbreviations like “u” (you) and “lol” (funny). The INTJs are articulate and precise, spelling out every word correctly and using excellent grammar. The ESFPs are imprecise and slangy.

I feel okay about picking on the ESFPs for several reasons: firstly, because I pick on myself and the general INTJ population; secondly, because they don’t like to read, and if they randomly came across my blog in a search for emoticons, they would be lost and confused and probably depressed, so they would quickly click back to adding flair on facebook; thirdly, they really don’t understand irony and nuance, so they probably wouldn’t “get” what I’m writing anyway.

EDIT 3/26/2012 – I appreciate the graciousness with which several ESFPs have commented on my post, a reflection of their personality type, I imagine.  The original post was written with a sense of irony and self-deprecation, but perhaps that did not come across well.  This edit is written in seriousness, though.  I love all the people in my life and the various strengths their personalities bring to the table.  I agree that my statements are not true of all ESFPs across the board.  I particularly envy the ease with which my Feeling friends strive for harmony in relationships and have natural empathy (in accord with one reader’s comment referring to emotional intelligence).  Thank you to all personality types for adding to the depth, richness, and complexity of humanity.

More INTJ in Relationships

Here are some more notes on INTJs in relationships and dating.

Some of the following information is borrowed from the INTJ forum, where nerds like me discuss the traits associated with the Myers-Briggs personality type Introverted-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging (INTJ).

How does an INTJ show they care for or love someone?

Initially, INTJs act alternately friendly and distant, for no apparent reason. This is the stage where they recognize that you are appealing, but they are unable to step up to the plate.

If you display vulnerability, such as by telling stories about yourself that you would only share with someone you trust, and the INTJ responds in kind, they are hooked. Keep in mind that “In kind” for an INTJ means that they reveal one intimate thing about themselves for each 10 or so that you do.

INTJs will reveal some particularly geeky thing about themselves to you, to see your response. This is a test. To pass, you need to be totally casual about the information, and if possible, have your own silliness to toss out, or at least be able to say something to show that you are not going to run away from this weirdness.

INTJs will poke around tentatively trying to find out if you like them long before they will express any such feelings themselves.

They will create super-sized, super-capable, idealized images of you, leaving you at somewhat of a loss. The imaginary you is supposedly a very direct, very honest, very congruent, very dependable person.

They will spend countless hours explaining their highly ordered way of thinking and lines of logic to you, like, “I like you so much that I’ve actually granted you the temporary privilege to have a sneak-peak into the *real* world – MY world. P.S.: You can thank me later.”

They will flirt with all the people they do not care about, but will find it strangely impossible to flirt with you if they are attracted to you.

They will sit you down and put you through the long form Myers-Briggs test.

They will conduct research on the INTJ forum and/or other personality websites to learn how to best understand you.

INTJ in Relationships

Some of the following information is borrowed from the INTJ forum, where nerds like me discuss the traits associated with the Myers-Briggs personality type Introverted-iNtuitive-Thinking-Judging (INTJ).

How does an INTJ show they care for or love someone?

Initial Romance/Crush

By freezing up utterly around them.

By avoiding them actively to avoid the freezing up.

By going from fully confident to zero self-confidence in three seconds flat around them.

General stiffness and awkwardness.

Actual love/affection

Being in the relationship. If there were no interest or affection, the INTJ would be single.

By becoming experts in the person so loved, to the point of accurate prediction of that person’s actions and thoughts from observed data.

By yielding some of the precious autonomy to put that person’s interests first.

By making the effort to empathize and understand the other person, in marked contrast to thoughtlessness normally characterizing INTJ social interactions.

Physical affection.

By expressing one’s thoughts and feelings, personal life experiences, and ideas with the other person.