I often find myself in a state of metacognition, a time of thinking about my own thinking.
My dad and I were in a tea house last year (yes, I’m a con-artist to get my dad to go to tea!), and there was a party of ladies sitting near us. The whole time we were there, I noticed that one woman totally dominated the conversation. She sat in the middle of the table and chimed in her own perspective on every topic. I didn’t know the woman, but I couldn’t help but think how obnoxious she was in comparison to her friends. Maybe I felt that because I recognized myself in the middle of that circle.
She was me, and the vision of that time in the tea house has haunted my memory since then.
I have no desire to be an introvert. I enjoy the fact that I can be bold. I like being the life of the party. I like being the center of attention. However, at the end of the day, I find myself replaying every word I’ve said and asking, “What crossed the line? What did people think of how I said that?” It’s not a cocky thing — it’s an insecure thing, an I-will-never-fit-in thing. Who would think that an extrovert who willingly draws so much attention to herself would regret most of the words she so carelessly tosses out? I wouldn’t believe it myself if I weren’t my own eyewitness.
Maybe you know me in real life, or maybe you just know me through the written word. Whether you’ve heard me say it or not, my life’s mission is to change the world. No, really. Some people just say that, but I will live and die by it—live abundantly as in John 10:10 or “die many times before [my] death” in the manner of Shakespeare’s cowards. I can’t rest (really I can’t) unless I feel like I’m accomplishing my mission, and for the task facing me, I need all the bold extroversion I can muster.
So how do I take what can be a vice and make it a virtue? If you’re in the same boat as me, with a personality too big for the room and the self-chastisement that follows, may I give both of us some advice?
Using the Center of Attention for Good
1. Let’s be slow to speak, and let’s make that speech important.
James is my favorite book of the Bible, and his words in the first chapter inspire me on this point: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (v.19). As long as what I have to say is carefully thought out, I don’t need to worry about it. That’s not to say that there won’t be consequences when someone takes me the wrong way, but I will be able to rest easily knowing that I planned what I meant for them to hear.
2. Let’s develop a group of protégés.
Surely we are not to be the only audience of our own wisdom. God has called all of us to do what author John C. Maxwell, author of The 360° Leader, refers to as leading up, leading across, and leading down. It’s in that leading down that we can really make an impact with our words.
Let’s call together a group that we can “do life with” and then regularly meet with them. I lead worship for eight years—maybe an upcoming leader needs something less painful than the school of hard knocks to bolster her own journey. Perhaps young women need to know that they don’t have to go through sexual impurity or depression; they can benefit from what I have to share instead and choose a different direction.
3. We have to translate speech into action.
No one wants to hear a ranty windbag go on and on about the way the world should be without ever seeing those ideas come to life and change the culture. To quote my brother John, I don’t want to be “a serial notrepreneur” for the kingdom. Ideas worth saying are worth doing, or we should keep our mouths shut.
4. We must seek humility as a lifestyle.
We are not the only ones with important things to say; that’s what the whole tea house scenario taught me. If I love an introvert, like my sister-in-law Rachel, I will give her time to think about what she’s going to say (which no doubt will be very profound) without running my own mental to-do list of what I’ll say next.
True love really cares about what the listener (aka victim) thinks and feels. We can’t think so much of our own opinions that we don’t remember what Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love does not brag, it is not puffed up.”
5. I must be OK with me.
That means that we have to be OK with we as well.* The Bible proves the value of a bold lion’s heart time and again. After her idiot husband Nabal treated David’s men with contempt, Abigail’s boldness in restitution not only prevented death but also garnered her a future spot as a king’s wife. Peter walked on water, preached to thousands, and commanded a lame man to walk — these acts of boldness redeemed the times his brash personality got him in trouble even with His Lord.
John the Baptist didn’t hold his tongue to religious or secular leadership, even when it meant his head would be served on a platter, and by such boldness became the forerunner for Jesus. If you and I are in such good company with those who “loved not their lives unto the death” and who “overcame [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11), maybe our big mouths aren’t such a bad thing. *That’s not bad grammar. That’s Babyface reference. 90’s music anyone?
The bottom line: If you or I find ourselves the center of attention, let’s use that platform for good. What about you? Are you a spotlight person or more of a wallflower? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments below.
Photo Credit: The featured photo, “Tea Party,” is copyright (c) 2005 Jay Ryness and made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. It has been modified for use on this blog.