DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want to hear from any extroverts or extroversion advocacy groups who still insist that introversion is a psychological disorder. For once, let us introverts have our moment to shine. After all, you extroverts already outnumber us three to one, so if world domination isn’t enough for you, I don’t know what is.
My name is Sharon, and I talk too much. I didn’t always talk too much. When I was a kid, I was notoriously quiet, so much so that my teachers would often mark me absent when I wasn’t, simply because they never heard a peep out of me and I liked to hide in the back of the classroom.
Trying to fade into the background and not be heard became a pattern I continued through ninth grade. I always felt more comfortable writing than speaking, and I would become incredibly nervous if I had to hold more than one conversation at once. At the time, I couldn’t explain to you why any of this was so, except I went to rough schools with scary classmates.
When I started tenth grade, I changed schools and, all of a sudden, found myself well liked and in possession of a sense of humor that could leave my school pals and teachers in stitches. That was the beginning of the bad habit. Talking too much, that is. Although often criticized, I found talking too much to be more acceptable socially than being too quiet. After all, there are plenty of things in our culture that reinforce that notion that quiet is bad:
- Quiet and solitude are often used as punishment. How often in school are naughty children punished by being asked to be perfectly quiet and remain totally still for extended periods of time? Or, when we’re mad at someone, we decide to punish him or her by giving him or her the silent treatment?
- Quiet is seen as a sign that something is amiss. How many times, when someone is silent, do those around the person usually remark, “What’s wrong? You’re so quiet.”
- Quiet is seen as a mark of cowardice or lack of intelligence. Messages are screamed everywhere from the marketplace, the social network, and the pulpit that we must let our voice be heard and be aggressive communicators.
My programming to hate silence continued into my early 20s, which was when I first heard the term introvert. The definition I first heard for it was that it was a person who was shy, withdrawn, isolated, and didn’t like to talk. Oh, and it was also a social disease, not much unlike narcissism or being an Oakland Raiders fan. So, I got the message that being a good woman, and a good Christian, and not looked at as crazy, meant I needed to be more out-going, a witty conversationalist, and be able to express an intelligent and cogent opinion on anything and everything on a moment’s notice. In other words, I needed to be an extrovert.
In recent days, my disdain for mindless chatter and the pressure I felt to be a smooth and constant talker came to a head because of the following:
- I read a book called The Introvert Advantage by Marti Laney. Written by an introvert, she did a lot to expose the myths about introversion. (For a great summary of the book, check out this article.) It was nice to see written out some of the things I had trouble verbalizing. For starters, it’s not that introverts don’t like to talk, but that they need a reason to talk, and get flustered when forced to make small talk, which was always the case with me. Second, introverts do better writing than speaking because the neural pathways in the introverted brain access the written language center more quickly and more easily than the brain’s spoken language center.
- A conversation I had with Jedi(tor). He brought up the fact that nowadays, most everything we say and do is recorded, particularly when it comes to social media and networking. I thought about all the nonsense I have said on Facebook, mostly from the compulsion to be witty and outspoken, and I was afraid. Very afraid.
- A quote I read that is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt. “Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.” I realized how for so long I have yearned for deep and meaningful conversation but too often get caught up in the drudgery of current events or malicious gossip. In other words, mindless chatter that drains my soul instead filling it.
I went for a walk in the park behind my house the other night. My mind was full of anxious thoughts and all the vain and idle words I had wasted because I was trying to be something I’m not. It seems everywhere I turn, I hear the message that if I really love God, I will be bold and outspoken about my faith. After all, God is calling all of us to be a voice to our generation, but what good is it if my voice doesn’t roar? However, experience has shown that the louder I get, the more distorted I sound.
I sat down under a tree and looked at the park in the pond as the sun was about to set. My heart was uneasy because of the struggle within me over what I had been told by society and the church versus what the still small voice of the Holy Spirit was trying to say. Suddenly, verses, which I knew very well, began to flood my mind:
- Psalm 46:10 “Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!”
- James 1:19 “Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.”
- Isaiah 30:15 “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength.”
- Proverbs 10:19 “In a multitude of words transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent.”
All these verses were talking about the virtues of silence and the dangers of mindless speech. As I meditated on God’s words to me, I noticed the beautiful reflection in the pond of the surrounding greenery and the darkening sky. After a few seconds, something blew into the water, causing a ripple effect, which proceeded to distort the aforementioned view of the park. And there was my answer: the water best reflected its surroundings when it was quiet and still. Likewise, I best reflect and display the beauty, majesty, and presence of God when I am quiet and still. Not to say that I don’t talk or let my voice be heard, but rather seek more to be silent so that God’s voice can be heard through me. That is how he designed me. That God-given silence is, indeed, a beautiful sound.