Monday, February 23, 2015

Finding A Voice: An Introverts Perspective in an Extroverted Religion

Finding A Voice

I may find myself posting on this particular topic more than once in the future. I am reading a fascinating book right now "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. In the beginning of the book there is a true/false quiz to help the reader identify if they are an introvert or an extrovert. I am most definitely an introvert. Knowing this about myself, and knowing that it is OK be so, has helped me in untold ways. Through research and personal experiences of the author as well as many others she has interviewed, Susan Cain takes the reader back in time to view how America has become an extrovert nation and how it continues to value and promote the Extrovert Ideal. She notes several times that this isn't a bad thing, quite the contrary, there are multiple positives for both the extrovert individual as well as the introvert individual. She also notes how they both can compliment each other in working together for a common goal or purpose.

This is where my brain drifted to the possibilities of introverts struggling in regards to religion, particularly in a religion as extroverted in nature as that of the LDS church. (Herein is where I begin to proceed with caution, not in anyway wanting to offend or give the wrong impression. I am most certainly NOT an expert.)

Let's begin then with the first thing that came to my mind that would make an introvert such as myself cringe and immediately feel like a failure in living up to righteous expectations: Member Missionary Work. (Any other introverts out there feel their stomachs drop and their heart rate increase with just the mere mention of those words?)

How about we drop the Extrovert Ideal for just a moment and focus on how you/me, an introvert, can take part in this divine work without having to knock on unknown neighbor's doors everyday and talk about the gospel enthusiastically and animatedly to every single individual we come across.

What if by some quiet means you can do your part?  Do you prefer one on one conversation to group activities? Do you find it easier to express yourself in writing? Are you content to listen in meetings, then take what observations you make home and think about them before formulating an opinion or stance? Not all introverts are slower in nature, but many are. I am one of those. In retrospect, it seems that I am steadily moving forward but not at a very fast rate. I like being given time to think on something before an answer is required. I recognize that not all situations are conducive to this manner of response, but what if we give just a little more space for those individuals who, when given the time to think, might surprise you with their insight. I don't have answers to the how part yet, I am simply posing the question What If...

In April of 2011 President Uchtdorf gave this talk: Waiting On The Road To Damascus
One particular part stood out to me:
"There are times when the Lord reveals to us things that are intended only for us. Nevertheless, in many, many cases He entrusts a testimony of the truth to those who will share it with others."

After listening to these words I felt moved inside to do something more, to find my voice and express it in a way that was both comfortable to me yet could be influential to another. A way that could be quiet, yet powerful. That is when I decided to begin charting my spiritual progress and learning on this blog, and by doing so, possibly helping the Lord influence at least one other person than myself. It has been personally rewarding. It also has given me a small sense of satisfaction in fulfilling the Member Missionary mantra that seems to be so heavily talked about.

If we set aside the Extrovert Ideal for just a minute, we may find that there are many, many ways in which the introvert individual can be a powerful instrument in the hands of the Lord for the good and benefit of others. We just might need to do a little more brainstorming(a pleasure for an introvert) and think outside of the box a little to help these individuals find their voice, the one that is unique to them. For it truly could be a powerful thing in a quiet way.

In the future, I hope to explore other ways of looking at different parts of LDS church service through the eyes of an introvert, and by doing so, using my voice to help further along this divine work.
If anyone out there has any ideas or thoughts to add, please feel free to share. I am not an expert by any means and hope to learn along the way as well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Letter To My Friends

We are so lucky, despite our trials.

This video brings tears to my eyes each time I view it (as I have mentioned before, tears are part of everything lately). I am happy this girl agreed to make this video. She demonstrates courage, which is the making of action in-spite of fear.

I have been doing a lot of self evaluation recently. After the passing of my dad I felt as if one of my life's rocks(be it a large and squishy, huggable rock) had been removed. So large of an influence was he that I didn't even realize just how much he held me up until he was gone. Maybe that is how it is for everyone when they lose a parent and I was just very unaware until experiencing it myself.

Loss comes in so many forms, not just in death alone. That is why this video spoke directly to my inner stuttering self.  No, I may not suffer from an outward speech impediment as this girl, but I definitely have an inward one that hinders my life's interactions. I have worked so very hard to hide it, overcome it, get rid of it, and everything else that would keep it far, far away. Somehow, the loss of my dad has sent me right back to my childhood insecurities. Where has my confidence gone to? I was visiting with some friends the other day and was probably visibly shaking, for that is what was happening on the inside. It took some work to control it. What is happening to me?!

In some ways I am horrified to have returned to my old childlike state, yet in others I am respectfully grateful. I want to hug the little insecure girl within myself and tell her some of the little bits of wisdom I have gained in living, despite fears and insecurities. For example, I definitely have been given a greater compassion and empathy for others, particularly young children, but especially for others that seem to be the outcast, the shy, and the troubled. I am learning that I wouldn't trade my weaknesses and internal infirmities for anything, because they are what makes the good parts of me, good. Like this adorable, huggable girl in this video, I too can help others as I reach out in love and compassion. It is scary. Fear will always trail alongside of me, but courage coupled together with action and grace from God will bring continued healing and strengthening not only to my aching heart but to those I serve with love.

My wish today is that all within the sound of my small voice may know that you are a child of a loving God. He made you unique. That includes your outward and inward infirmities that probably will stick with you your entire life. Embrace them as part of you, and do what it takes to learn to carry, and walk with them, and use them for good. I promise the Lord will bless you and others as you do so. I promise you will feel His love for you, a very sweet, tender and pure love for you. I leave you this promise in His name, even Jesus Christ. Amen

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Good Deeds

My father passed away several months ago. The details are lengthy and irrelevant to the message I wish to convey tonight. Suffice it to say, he was too young and so was I to say goodbye. My heart, having recently been opened once more, wishes to express a deeper gratitude for all the kind acts of service and love that have been given to me and my family.
Everyone experiences grief in diverse ways. For me, my senses seemed to go numb with the pain and loss. So many kind words and acts of love were given, while I appreciated every single one of them I just didn't quite grasp their full impact until now and I am overcome with gratitude, to the point of tears spilling over my heart is so full. Tears seem to be the byproduct of the numbness wearing off, but it's ok. They are less bitter when they are full of gratitude.
This is really just a reminder post to myself to never discount a good deed or kind word as naught. One never knows the after effects of a kind word or act. They will add up in the end though and the results will benefit the giver and the receiver in untold ways.

(Pretty much this entire blog is a reminder post to myself, I am a forgetful mortal and need to be taught over and over feels good to be teachable once more)