Just The Way I Am

A couple of weeks ago, a friend broke up with me in a sort of kind of roundabout way. I texted my friend to ask about it, and here was the response.

“You just kind of quit talking to me.”

I was taken aback. This friend had moved away, and I still loved them very much, but it appeared I hadn’t shown it.

I sat for a moment, looking at my phone. Suddenly I had a revelation about myself: I tend to be an out of sight, out of mind type. If you’re not in my daily life—well, you’re just not on my radar. I don’t think I do it maliciously. But I do it.

It’s just my personality! I thought. And that is absolutely true. It is my personality; I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. I go about my usually busy days, taking care of one thing after another. Many days I get to the end of the day, and I haven’t checked in with any of my people, except those that live in my house. Maybe.

And it needs to change.

See, this thing about my personality, this just the way I am, wounds people, causes hurt, drives a wedge between me and people I love, and I didn’t even know it. But now I do know it. And looking back over my life, I realize I’ve done it several times, probably hurting several people.

And it needs to change.

So often, our culture promotes an I’m ok, you’re ok mantra. These things about you? The ones that other people might not like? Well, that’s just who you are! It’s your personality! People around you just need to suck it up and get over it, because it’s who you are and you’re not about to change.

Yeah, those things might be you. Prickly, disengaged, distracted, argumentative … and hey, I’m one of those. I’m strong willed, opinionated, outspoken, all those things. I’ve learned to temper them over the years though, as I’ve become more and more aware of the impact I have on others. I’ve also learned that people are always more important than opinions—and my opinions tend to change, actually.

I tend to think of myself as an introvert. You know, the likes-to-be-alone, prefers my books to just about anything, likes to be invited to the party but doesn’t actually want to go to the party, all that. It’s true; I actually do recharge my energy by being alone. But introverted doesn’t translate to hermit; nor does it translate to rude or disengaged. I’ve learned to overcome that, to be present where I’m present with the people I’m with.

In the same way, this out of sight, out of mind thing shouldn’t translate to being a jerk. It shouldn’t mean ghosting people I love, removing myself from their lives when there’s absolutely no reason for it except my seeming inability to communicate.

This conversation with my friend uncovered a very ugly piece of myself. I grieved what I’d done, not least because it had hurt my friend. But it also meant this person that I loved very much no longer considered me a friend, because my personality had wounded them.

In this age of that’s just the way I am, it’s imperative that we remain teachable. It’s crucial that when others tell us how we impact them, we listen—and adjust.

I preach about cultivating a culture of honor, but in this case, it wasn’t honoring at all.

And it needs to change.

So I’m intentionally pursuing change in this area. A friend said to me one time, “I mean, why couldn’t you set an alarm on your phone to remind you to call or text?” I scoffed at the suggestion. Who wants to be reduced to a to-do list item??

I like to-do lists. I like to check things off as I finish tasks. As I was contemplating this, I realized that my to-do lists reflect much more than getting things done; they actually reflect my priorities. I pastor a church, I’m a free-lance editor, I homeschool my son, I run a household … all those things. I’m busy, no doubt, and there are myriad tasks that go into keeping those plates spinning. I have no trouble adding those things to my list. So why not another, higher priority of mine: people?

This way that I am, that I’ve been, isn’t who I want to be. It doesn’t fit with my value for people and relationships. So even though it’s my personality, the way I’ve always been, I’m changing it. I’m intentionally confronting myself, and the ways I’ve hurt others. I’m committing to examining why I do the things I do, and adjusting. I’m learning to love better.

And I’m learning to show it. Because I want that to be just the way I am.


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