‘But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord”. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends’. 2 Corinthians 10: 17-18
My heart is pounding as I begin to write this- and I know it’s because it is an area I am very passionate about. I am hoping to write this in a way that is empowering and not filled with nonconstructive emotion, as I continue to work through my own thoughts and feelings on the matter.
Over the last week I have been thinking about capabilities a lot. Let me give you a bit of background. Cue.. the deep stuff. Cue the clichés. I’m owning it- it’s cool 😉
My default setting is ‘introvert’. I love to listen to people speak, watch people’s interactions together, reflect on things, and have my own space and quietness away from the world. On the other hand, I realise we live in an ‘extroverted world’. A world which seems to be biased towards the extroverted type of character. These are the people who push ahead in life, and who appear to be more likely to be deemed ‘successful’ both socially and vocationally. Not just from my own experience, but from having talked to a number of people who would also consider themselves more introverted, the introvert tends to find themselves constantly trying to ‘adapt’ to fit into the more extroverted society. There is so much more I could say on this, in general. But specifically, where does this link in with Christianity, faith, and our God given potential?
*Disclaimer: This is not an attack on extroverts. This is a, ‘Come on and push yourself through it!’ to myself and other introverts.
Have you ever got the impression when you achieved something which was outside of your comfort zone, or did well in a specific situation or with a specific task or goal, that the people around you were surprised you succeeded? How could she do that? She’s much too quiet for that? How did she manage to speak up there? That’s not like her… She’s a dark horse… We need to watch her…
Limitations. Limitations. Limitations.
These opinions would frustrate me, and continue to frustrate me at times. Granted, in some contexts in the past, I have shut down completely. Not because I wanted to. I have literally just shut down, due to anxiety within that situation. I have had moments where with total anxiety of the social circumstance I was about to walk into, I would be almost sick with nerves or tearful with dread. (Shout out to my family, for putting up with my irrational worries. You’re fab, guys.) Thankfully it is very rare that this will happen now, due to forcing myself to keep walking into those situations, despite the dread. I can overcome those situations, because I call on my God and He always comes through. His grace carries me through.
‘…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.’ Philippians 2: 12-13
God will help you, but you have to push past your comfort zone in order to fulfil your calling- despite the fear and trembling!!!
Paul! What a legend. He was one the most influential apostles. He helped set up the early church, went through unbelievable trials, challenges and extreme persecution, and to top it all off, was surrounded by people who did not always respect or treat him well. I recently read 2 Corinthians 10 where Paul is defending his ministry to the very people he was ministering to.
‘…I, Paul, who am ‘timid’ when face to face with you, but ‘bold’ towards you when away!’ 2 Corinthians 10:1
‘For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing”‘ 2 Corinthians 10:10
What??? Paul, THE apostle Paul, was ‘timid’, ‘unimpressive’ in person, and his ‘speaking amounts to nothing’???
This is the man God chose to lead the early church. Paul was someone who was understated, unimpressive, quiet, and not all that great a speaker. And yet, he was used by the power of the Holy Spirit to complete the work God had ordained for him to do.
Paul was faced with people who mocked and scorned him, who underestimated him, dismissed him, who didn’t think he ‘had it in him’. And yet we still read his letters over 2000 years later and his writings still bring people to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. He pressed on despite the naysayers and despite popular opinion, because when God calls us, we are compelled to act, if we truly want to be fulfilled and at peace within ourselves.
We cannot let people’s opinions of who they think we are, or how they judge our capabilities, limit us.
Maybe in some contexts we are unimpressive, quiet, shut down, and are frozen with insecurities. But when God wants to use us, whether it be to fulfil a particular vocation or calling, to obtain those God given desires He has planted in our hearts, or to fight in a situation where He wants to use us, WE ARE FIGHTING WITH THE LION OF JUDAH ON OUR SIDE. His strength, might, and power, will work in us and we will rise to the challenge and succeed, in Jesus’ name.
What about those around us who see our victories as ‘flukes’ or who underestimate or dismiss our works, due to their small expectations of our worth? Situations like this would frustrate me until I realised, it is not for my glory but for God’s glory. It really wasn’t my strength, but God’s strength. When I view it in this sense, I realise my frustration comes from a place of pride. But in seeing that my God carries me through, and it is not on my merit, He allows humility to replace the pride. As long as I don’t allow negative opinions and dismissals to bring me down and limit the potential God has put on me, they don’t matter. All glory goes to Him.
A beautiful friend and sister in Christ, recently sent me a talk by Brené Brown – Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-JXOnFOXQk&t=366s ] I would really recommend everyone to watch it. One of the points Brené makes is,
“If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your opinion”.
Here’s what it means:
- Those in the arena, are those pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, exposing their vulnerabilities and gifts to the world, creating and innovating, working to achieve their God given potential.
- They are ‘getting their ass kicked’, because there are always critics watching, making judgements, making comparisons, and attacking your steps. This world is rife with judgemental critics, mocking from the sidelines.
- But those in the arena, need to not take on the opinions of their critics, if it is not constructive criticism, because otherwise they will find themselves being ‘shut down’ and reverting back to a place of not fulfilling their God given potential.
God has a plan and vision for your life. You choose if you want to allow that plan to be brought to fruition and enable Him to work through you, or if you want to allow your critics to shut you down.
Plot twist: your biggest critic is very often, You.
To the extroverts of this world: Open your minds to see that even though your more introverted friends may be quiet in some contexts, this does not mean that they are limited to this mindset. When God works in them, they can rise up and be strong, confident men and women as they live out their identity in Christ. Give space for that to happen and encourage these successes rather than casting skepticism or judgement. Also, whilst not allowing them to get too comfortable, you also need to give them space to work at their own pace. And to be okay with that.
To the introverts of this world: STOP LIMITING YOURSELF! I am filled with frustration for all of us, myself included! I am literally grieving the wasted opportunities. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Do not allow yourself to be sheltered and cosy and comfortable, if it means you will be stuck in the one place and not progress forward with the desires and goals God has placed on your heart. If God wants something done, He will get it done. If you have been called, and you don’t answer that call due to allowing your nerves, anxiety, insecurities get in the way, God will still get His work done. But He will get someone else to do it.
The biggest shame in life, is to watch someone reduce themselves to their insecurities and not take hold of the opportunities and callings God has placed in their path. It does not simply fall into place- we have to take steps towards the path God is calling us on. We have to step out. Otherwise, we waste our talents, our potential, our value. Don’t live a life of regret. Live a life of growth and fulfill your potential.
Clichés done. I’m out.