Laudable Linkage

I’ve been debating with myself about whether to post these now or wait. It’s later in the day than I usually post, because we had an outing earlier today. But this is a nice-sized list: if I wait til next Saturday, it might be twice as long. So I think I’ll go ahead and share them. Hopefully you’ll find something that interests you among them.

Are You Pointing Your Suffering Friend to Earthly Things. “The ‘at least’ and ‘look on the bright side’ statements that jump from our mouths originate from a desire to fix a hard circumstance, but in saying them, we run from the reality that we simply can’t. We can’t take our fellow Christians’ suffering away. Unfortunately, in our efforts to help take their minds off their pain, we often point them to the wrong place.”

When Missionaries Return Broken, HT to Kim.

The Quiet Miracle of Roots and Leaves. Lots of good stuff in this one. “It turns out that a believing teen’s struggle with apathy and hypocrisy requires the same grace from the same Savior who longs to deliver less-catechized teens from drug addiction and immorality.” True for us adults, too.

The Opposite of a Bucket List. “Even if I did come up with the perfect list–challenging enough to be exciting, but not so challenging as to be impossible–and I managed to actually accomplish every item on it, what then of the end game? What would be left to life once everything on the list had been checked off?” I like her alternative much better.

Should Introverts Be Expected to Act Like Extroverts? HT to Challies. I’ve read many articles about introverts, usually by introverts. This one, written by an  extrovert, was refreshing.

These 5 Classic Books Are Getting Remade Into Movies, HT to Karen Swallow Prior. Some look promising. I hope they do them justice.

I came across this quote by Spurgeon on a friend’s Facebook page, reposted from the C. H. Spurgeon Quotes page. Thought it went well with my Monday post about church.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Advertisements

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few interesting reads found on the web lately:

Next in the Sexual Revolution: Children. HT to Proclaim and Defend. “They claim children are sexual beings too and who are we to deny a consenting child that right?” Scary and appalling.

Matthew 18 is Not Instructive for Book Reviews, But Much of the New Testament Is, HT to Challies. “‘Did you contact the author privately before you posted the review?’ . . . The question invokes the well-known, but oft-misunderstood, church discipline passage in Matthew 18:15-20.”

The Miracle That Can Happen When You’re Tired. “They were tired. They were overworked. They were hungry. Which just so happens to be the perfect time for God to display His power.”

Who Says Social Media Can’t Make You Wise? HT to True Woman. “Ten years of social media has shown me the wisdom of being slow to speak, how comparison kills joy, how in-person friendship knows no substitute. But it has also taught me the sweetness of the well-timed word of encouragement, of shared celebrations and shared losses. Used wisely, a virtual platform can actually minister. For those indwelt by the Spirit, wisdom can be unearthed from even such common soil as social media.”

14 Stunning Illustrations That Perfectly Capture the Introverts Love of Books, HT to Linda

The $8,000 Mistake All Bloggers Should Beware. I forget where I saw this one. “Copyright laws have created and enabled an industry of predatory lawyers – also known as copyright trolls. These attorneys take advantage of photographers and artists who make their images available online, as well as the bloggers who don’t know any better and post the wrong content to their sites.” Apparently they don’t have to warn you first and give you a chance to take it down. We all know (or should) that just because a photo is on the Internet doesn’t mean we can use it. But apparently some of the instances we thought were ok, like a link back to the original site, don’t justify the use of the photo.

You’re Using a Cutting Board Incorrectly, HT to Challies. I never knew! But it makes sense!

And, finally, someone on Facebook posted this video of a baby trying chocolate milk for the first time. Adorable!

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

I don’t usually post these two weeks in a row, but I came across several good reads this week, and some pertain to Easter.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Cross, HT to Challies.

What If Jesus Really DID Rise From the Dead?

Despite Loving Christian Parents, I Left the Faith, HT to Proclaim and Defend. Good tips for parents at the end.

When a Member of Your Church Is Dying, HT to Linda.

Should I Bring My Kids to a Funeral? HT to Story Warren.

The Blessing of a Good Example, HT to Challies.

9 Things That Quiet, Awkward Introvert Wishes You Knew, HT to Linda.

Are home renovations necessary?  HT to Linda. Nothing wrong with home renovations, but all the flip and fix shows popular now can make us discontent.

The Introvert in Assisted Living

img_1894One of the things that stood out to me in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain was just how much society is set up for the extrovert, from schools to businesses. I don’t know if she mentioned assisted living facilities or nursing homes, but I found that they, too, were developed primarily with extroverts in mind.

Most activities at the facilities my mother-in-law has been in involved  trying to get everyone together in the common room for some event or performer. We’d get a calendar of events every month, filled with exercise classes, bingo, craft times, magicians, movie nights, and various groups coming to sing. I’m sure many of the residents loved a lot of those opportunities.

My mother-in-law was always content with a small circle of friends. She never drove. Her husband got groceries and ran most errands. She enjoyed going to church and helping with Awanas there until she couldn’t hear well enough to continue. A big portion of her dislike of getting together in large groups had to do with her hearing. She has worn hearing aids in all the nearly 40 years I have known her, and she told me once that in crowds, the aids magnified everything, so it was not only hard to pick out the voice of the person you were talking to, but it was unnerving that everything was so loud (they may have improved on that aspect now – I’m not sure). But even besides the hearing issues, she preferred home to just about anywhere else. They loved to go visit family or a handful of close friends, or go and get wood in the hills for their wood stove. She didn’t have many hobbies besides reading, her favorite activity when her work was done. She and her husband loved to watch the Atlanta Braves baseball games together and tinker in their garden or around the house.

One of our reasons (not the main one) for having her in assisted living rather than in our home was so that her world wouldn’t be reduced to just us. But when any of the aides asked if she’d like to come for whatever was going on down in the common room, she’d politely say no, she’d like to just stay in her room and read her book. Occasionally they could get her to if they didn’t ask, “Would you like to…” but rather just said, “It’s time for…” If they started helping her out the door for something that she seemed to be expected to do, she wouldn’t protest, though she didn’t like it (you do have to be careful of that kind of thing, though, so that you’re not running roughshod over their wishes). But once when I walked in and she was out with the others listening to a church group, she couldn’t understand what they said when they were talking, but she could get enough of the melody of old familiar hymns that she could sing along.

Once when I was trying to encourage her to participate more and telling her it would be good to get out of her room sometimes, she said, ” I DO get out of my room three times a day for meals!” Residents had to go to the common room for meals and sit at a table with two or three others (unless they were sick, and then a tray was taken to their room). And I thought, that’s true, and that’s quite a lot of social interaction compared to her life before assisted living. So I didn’t urge her that way any more.

She enjoyed coming with us to my son’s basketball games and to our home and church. We would take her out to eat with us sometimes, and I could tell she was tense and not entirely comfortable, but as long as we ordered for her (so she wouldn’t have to) and stayed close, she was fine.

Now, of course, with her decline over the years, her lack of mobility and speaking, about the only place she goes is outside occasionally in her wheelchair.

I know it was more cost effective and needed fewer workers to do things as a group rather than have one-on-one activities. There were just a few individual activities they did that worked well. A couple of the places would bring in therapy dogs and take them to individual rooms for residents to pet and interact with for a short time. She always had pets until assisted living, so I think she enjoyed that. One activity director would come to her room and paint her fingernails. I don’t think she ever painted her fingernails in her life before that, so I never knew quite what she thought about that one. But at least it was one-on-one.

My husband and I often thought that someone could make a business out of being a personal trainer in those kinds of facilities. My mother-in-law was under a physical therapist’s care at different times, but eventually their time with a patient comes to an end, and they leave them with a list of exercises. My mother-in-law never did the exercises on her own and didn’t want to go down to the group exercise classes, but she would work with the physical therapist (as she declined, she needed my husband to be there for the first few sessions so they could learn to communicate with each other. He was from Croatia, and she couldn’t understand him, so he thought she was just being uncooperative, and she didn’t really care if he came back or not. :-/ But after just a few visits with my husband there to interpret for her and urge her on, and showing the therapist how to communicate with her, they got along quite well.) We didn’t want our own visits with her to be all about exercising, so it would have been nice if there was someone on staff, or even someone who worked with different facilities, to come in and help people with their exercises.

One lady who used to visit my mother-in-law used to read and discuss with her parts of the Reader’s Digest, her favorite magazine. Nowadays, visitors often read a part of the Bible to her, valuable since she can’t read for herself any more (it’s important to remember if you are reading to someone with hearing problems that you stand or sit where they can see you clearly and speak loudly). Other one-on-one activities that we’ve done and others could do are taking her outside (one facility had a lovely screened in porch) for a change of venue, looking through pictures or photo albums with her (people love to talk about their families), or show her things on the computer. Sometimes when we had her over for a meal, my husband would show her some of the family members’ Facebook pages, or use Google Earth to see some of the places where they used to live. We talked some about her life before I knew her (I discovered she had been the editor of her high school newspaper!), but I wish I had done that more and then written it down. I also wish I had come up with some bit of interesting news or information to share with her. Often our conversations would start out with, “Well, what’s new?” And I’d reply, “Well, not much.” When you visit someone almost every day there is really not much new every visit. I did share family and church news and sometimes current events, but I wish on those days when I didn’t have anything new to share that I had taken the time to look up or come up with something she’d find interesting. I also wish I had put some of her old photos in a scrapbook with her, not just for the activity, but to hear more about the people in them.

Although my mother-in-law would not have had the dexterity or interest in these, some might enjoy games or puzzles (although she did enjoy Scrabble sometimes at our home. We had to take it very slowly and she’d argue with us about words like “qi” and “xi.” 🙂 ). Some might even enjoy some of the group activities if they have a companion they know to go with them, at least the first few times.

The biggest help, though, both in any facility or in our home now, is just visiting with her personally. At different times over the years different individuals from our church would take it upon themselves to just go see her. Sometimes different groups within the church or community would make something for residents and bring it to their rooms, and that was nice, but really, the main help was just a short time of personal conversation and interaction.

When I was in college, one of the ministry groups I participated in for a couple of years was a “foster grandparent” program. There were other groups from college who would do Sunday morning and week night services at a nursing home, but our group would ask for names of residents who didn’t get as many visitors, and we would each choose two and then spend Friday nights visiting those two, just to talk and get to know them. I still have fond memories of “my ladies.”

Of course, staff members do not have time to do all of these things, and some are best done by family. But for those like the activities director who only painted fingernails, ministry groups, and individual visitors, these are a few ideas of things to do with one older person rather than a group activity.

Social interaction is important to every person, but introverts prize it on a smaller and more infrequent scale, with one or two people and quieter activities. That may be a little more time- and labor-intensive than group activities, but it can be highly valuable for both sides.

For more in the Adventure in Eldercare series, click the graphic below.

Eldercare

(Sharing with Inspire Me Mondays)

Save

Save

Save

Laudable Linkage

Here are some great reads discovered in the last couple of weeks:

America, I Still Believe in You (But, Only Because I Believe in Him)

Serving in Church: When Your Spiritual Gift Isn’t Changing Diapers. “Sometimes the need for a servant is greater than my need to use a specific gift.”

What About Your Desire to Do Something Great For God? “When the desire to do for God supersedes the desire to obey God, it reveals that God is no longer the source of joy. A heart delighted in God desires to obey Him. A heart delighted in self desires to see what self can accomplish. A person delighted in God doesn’t care so much how God uses her, but rather that she is useful to God, the object of her delight. A person delighted in self cares deeply about how God uses her, because seeing the self she loves underused causes grief.”

Elizabeth Prentiss: Joyfully Embracing Motherhood and Suffering. Elizabeth is the author of the hymn “More Love to Thee” and the book Stepping Heavenward.

Brexit and the Coming of the Last Days.

Assisted Suicide: A Quadriplegic’s Perspective.

A Well-Ordered Life and Scruffy Hospitality might seem like opposite viewpoints. But I think the key is balance. We don’t need to wait for a “Pinterest-perfect” house or party to have people over, but some degree of order makes life go more smoothly. Personalities are probably inclined more one way or the other.

How Schools Can Help Notice and Serve the Quiet Kids.

Finally, my oldest son posted this on Facebook. I don’t know who made it, but it’s good advice when watching and passing on news.

13626960_10153618154706820_7479503557540693697_n

Laudable Linkage

Here are some noteworthy reads that caught my eye this week:

How to Prevent Brotherly Love.

Forgiveness: What If He Isn’t Sorry? Excellent, well thought-out, thorough article on this subject. Too many people have a glib answer to this which overlooks some Scriptural principles, so I am very happy to see some of this articulated.

Wedded Bliss: 10 Years Married to a Sports Addict. Good article about dealing with a husband’s hobbies. I don’t think a wife necessarily has to jump in and experience it with him – I think it’s ok to have some different tastes – but there are great thoughts here about how to “honor his appropriate pursuit of” his hobby rather than attempting to “manipulate, belittle, or guilt him away from the thing he loves.” And of course this works with the husband in regard to the wife’s interests as well.

Introverts in the Dearest Place on Earth, HT to Challies.

On Writing Well (5 Big Tips)

You Can Avoid This Rookie Writing Error.

My cousin shared this helpful graphic for which holiday honors which service people:

Honoring those in service

Of course, it’s good to honor those who protect and defend our country at every opportunity.

Happy Saturday!

The Quiet Person in the Small group

 

A lot of churches will have small groups or Bible studies for a number of reasons, among them, that they help people to get to know one another and provide a more interactive approach than the main preaching service. I’ve seen a number of articles and blog posts about how to help one’s small group function at its best, and one item that always comes up is what to do about the quiet person who doesn’t say much.

The usual advice is to call on that person by name during the discussion time with a direct question, such as “Mary, what do you think?” May I say on behalf of quiet people everywhere: please don’t do that. Asking the group members to “turn to their neighbor” to discuss one on one a question from the study isn’t much better.

People may be quiet for any number of reasons. Maybe they’re introverts, shy, lacking in confidence to speak out, or just a quiet personality. All of those things don’t necessarily go together: introverts are not always shy and quiet people aren’t always lacking in confidence. But all of them cringe at being put on the spot, especially in front of others.

Small group leaders should naturally make leading their group a matter of prayer, part of which would be asking for wisdom in how to minister to the various personalities in the group and facilitate the best kinds of interaction.

Some people may not feel comfortable about speaking out in a group. I’m not talking butterflies in the stomach nervousness: I’m talking full-blown anxiety. Calling on them will only increase that fear and make them unlikely to come next time. It helps that person to be friendly and talk with them before or after the group: maybe over time she’ll feel comfortable enough to speak out. If she does share something while talking alone with the group leader, perhaps the leader can say something like, “That’s a great thought, Susan. Would you mind of I shared that with the others during discussion time, or would you like to, perhaps?”

Some may be mulling things over. Introverts in particular take a while to process what they hear and learn. That person honestly may not have an answer for you, or she may still be thinking about something from two questions ago. It might help someone like that to ask at the end of the discussion if anyone has any thoughts on anything discussed that day: that way she can feel comfortable bringing up a thought from earlier without feeling like she’s holding up progress for everyone else. Or, at the beginning of the next session the leader could ask if anyone has any thoughts from last week’s discussion: if someone has been processing the discussion through the week, she’ll be more likely to have something to say about it after some extending time to think about it.

Some might not contribute to the discussion due to fear of saying the wrong thing, especially in a Christian discussion. While we don’t need to let a falsehood pass just to be nice, we can handle it in a gracious way: “I can see how you might come to that conclusion. But consider this aspect…” People are more likely to contribute to the discussion if they feel safe doing so.

Some of my blog friends have mentioned their small groups getting together socially apart from their regular study, perhaps after one study and before beginning another. This is a great way for group members to feel more comfortable with each other and might facilitate more interaction in the regular group meetings. A quiet person is not likely to be the life of the party even in a purely social setting, but she may get to know one or two people a little better, and that’s progress.

Naturally small groups work best if there is a good deal of balanced interaction. Some translate that into thinking their group time has been a “success” only if everyone has participated, i.e., spoken and shared something with the group, every time. But may I suggest that’s putting form above function. It can breed thoughts like, “I have to think of something to say so people don’t think I’m unspiritual,” which adds even more pressure to the quiet person. A person may be benefiting greatly from her time there, yet never say a word, at least during the group discussion. After all, listening is participating.

OK, you might say, she might be getting something, but what is she giving? Maybe nothing to the group that day except her presence. But maybe she takes the truths she has learned and applies them in her own life, or teaches them to her children, or discusses them with a close friend, or expands on them in a blog post.

Sometimes one aspect of wanting to see everyone participate is wanting to see results, and those are not always for us to see: sometimes we just have to trust that God is using His Word in people’s lives even if they don’t tell us about it.

I’m not suggesting that everyone reading this opt for silence during the next Bible study or small group get-together, nor am I suggesting that quiet people should never extend themselves (perhaps a topic for a separate post some time). They We should. But they’ll we’ll be more likely to without the artificial pressure of trying to come up with something to say just because it is expected.

 

Laudable Linkage

Here are some great reads discovered in the last week or so:

Advice For Those Burned By the Church.

When Christians Mock Christians. Respectfully discussing issues where we differ is one thing, but unfortunately people on both sides of an issue can degenerate into mocking each other.

Putting an End to Spiritual Envy. I like this post not just for what it says, but how it is done: a wonderful example of Biblical exposition.

An Open Letter to an Older Woman. Sometimes it is hard to know how to be a Titus 2 older woman when younger women don’t seem to want our company and everyone wants things new and young and fresh. This is an encouragement to older women from a younger one along with some subtle, gentle suggestions as to the best ways to be a help.

Impatient With Grief.

A few posts on unanswered prayer for healing: Together Is A Beautiful Word, We Didn’t Get Healed…or Did We? and What If Your Healing Doesn’t Come? The last two are from a paralyzed wife and her husband.

10 Questions for Better Bible Study. Love this: simple and direct and unfluffy.

The Introverted Mother. Someone who recharges by time alone has a hard time when she’s never alone. Here is some encouragement.

The Science of What Makes an Introvert and an Extrovert.

The Holy Longings of Happily Ever After. Is a fairy-tale ending unrealistic or a beacon towards the ultimate best ending?

This Three Minute Commercial Puts Full Length Hollywood Films to Shame. I don’t know what country has three minute commercials – but this is a sweet short story in film. You could say it is about grace.

Hope you have a great weekend!

 

Thoughts on being an introvert

IndoorsyI don’t know if I was taught this somewhere along the way or if it was just a misconception, but as I was growing up I had the idea that an introvert was someone who was indoorsy, not as physically active (and therefore probably a little pudgy), quiet, and didn’t have many friends, whereas an extrovert was more physical, active, outgoing, talkative, and loud.

Evidently I’m not the only one with incorrect ideas of what it means to be an introvert. I was talking with a friend yesterday who said that she has sometimes been accused of being antisocial and once even of being sinful due to her introversion (the latter was said teasingly, but still, that kind of thing stings).

Over the last year I’ve found myself reading a number of books (Quiet; The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain and Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh, both linked to my thoughts on them) and articles about introverts that helped clarify my own thinking and understanding. But as I was commiserating with my friend yesterday, one problem is that extroverts aren’t likely to read books about introverts, and therefore misunderstanding continues.

No one is completely all introvert or extrovert, but most people do lean strongly one way or another. The differences between the two aren’t just a matter of preference: Cain quotes a number of sources documenting that introverts are neurologically wired differently. So it behooves us (both introvert and extrovert) to understand and accept our differences, to realize that God created people differently and has different ways they can each minister, rather than trying to make each other more like ourselves or make everyone fit into one mold.

One of the main differences between the two are their sources of energy in relation to people. Introverts are drained by much social interaction: extroverts thrive on it. Introverts are not antisocial: they do like to get together with people but usually prefer smaller groups. If they are in a large gathering, they’ll likely be on the sidelines talking with one or two people rather than mixing and mingling with many (and they’ll likely collapse at home afterward).

Introverts also tend to be more analytical and slower to process their thoughts. That’s one thing that makes them lag a bit in group discussions and conversations: by the time they process what is being discussed and what they want to say, the conversation has moved on. That’s also why they can panic or at least strongly dislike being called on in a class or small group, and why they don’t think “on their feet” well and often express themselves better in writing than speaking. Introverts are generally more quiet because they’re thinking and processing (and because they prefer quietness and calmness), whereas extroverts often think things through by talking.

Not all introverts are shy: shyness may involve some of the above but may have the added factor of fear, or may just be habit. I was actually raised with the phrase, “Children are to be seen and not heard,” and it is hard to just flip the switch as an adult and start talking. God has helped me with that a lot (that may be a subject for another post). But even if shyness is due to fear, it isn’t helped by rebuking a person for it. Take whatever you’re most afraid of (public speaking, heights, spiders, etc.), and tell yourself “Just stop it!” and see how far you get. 🙂 Then apply that to a fear of people, and perhaps you’ll understand a bit better. One can learn coping mechanisms to help with shyness (and should, since one needs to learn to interact with people), but understanding and empathy help more than a superior or judgmental attitude.

Few if any introverts want to be total hermits. They do need and want people – just preferably in smaller doses. Some of us can talk a blue streak once we get to know and feel comfortable with people. And we can learn to be more talkative than we are really comfortable with. We do need to reach out and be involved in community – all those Biblical “one anothers” do involve other people. But it is comforting to know that Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

There are other characteristics of introverts (which is why, after all, whole books have been written about them), but the main point I wanted to make today was just that we need to understand and respect differences. God made people different and as such He has a place and a purpose for each. The church needs both introverts and extroverts both for balance but also so they can minister to those most like themselves as well as to each other. One of my favorite e-mails came from Karla Dornacher, when I had posted a comment on her blog in a post where she had mentioned being a bit of a loner even though she does well at speaking to crowds. She responded that she couldn’t be alone in her studio so much of the time if she couldn’t be content with being alone for long stretches, and God gives us personalities to fit our callings. That was one of those proverbial light bulb moments for me. I’ve appreciated ways that God has opened for me to minister to others that fit in with the personality He has given me.

There are times, though, that He has pushed me out of my comfort zone. Every trait has its good and bad tendencies, and Adam’s book in particular cautions introverts against some of their potential problem tendencies (some of the most helpful quotes are here). We can avoid people sometimes just out of selfishness rather than need, and we need to realize that a lack of interaction can be hurtful and seem rude even if it is not meant to be. Adam also encourages us that when God does call us to make sacrifices or extend ourselves, He will provide the grace to do so.

Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

QuietLast year I kept seeing Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain mentioned favorably all over the blogosphere, and being an introvert myself (I got 11 out of 12 questions as an introvert on the Quiet Quiz!) and highly intrigued, I put it on my Christmas wishlist.

The author traces the history from a Culture of Character, when disciple, honor, and quietly doing the right thing were valued, to the Culture of Personality, where being likeable and presenting oneself well emerged as the more valued qualities (fueled, among other things, by the transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one and the need for salespeople), to these days esteeming charisma and overt extroversion. She draws examples from the worlds of business, education, and politics to show that Western society really is set up for the Extroverted Ideal, and she cites numerous scientific studies to show that introverts aren’t just shy (not all introverts are), but that they have physical, neurological differences that affect how they process things, and they also have many valuable qualities..

I was amazed at the many ways in which the world is indeed set up for more extroverted personalities, from businesses which put workers together in the same room to brainstorm and feed off each other’s energy rather than giving them quiet offices in which to think, to classrooms set up for groups, where contributing to class discussions is highly prized (she cites one classroom sign of “‘Rules for Group Work,’ including, ‘You can’t ask a teacher for help unless everyone in your group has the same question'” [p. 77] Talk about snuffing out individuality!)

The author isn’t saying that introverts are better than extroverts, but that they have valued gifts and abilities that society can and should make provision for, and that it is okay to be an introvert. Part of a larger quote from Allen Shawn says, “A species in which everyone was General Patton would not succeed, any more than a race in which everyone was Vincent Van Gogh” (p. vii). Both personality types are needed.

But she acknowledges that it’s not good for introverts to sit in a corner all our lives and never extend ourselves, and she suggests ways to interact in an extroverted world, like a popular public speaker who skips the social venues while on a speaking engagement to walk quietly by a river or hide out in the bathroom to “recharge” between sessions.

Probably one of the most helpful sections for me was a study of “highly reactive” babies. When disturbed in some way, the highly reactive babies would flail their arms, kick, and cry, but the other babies seemed to take everything in stride. I thought at first that the highly reactive babies would be the extroverts, since they were more vocal and expressive, but they became introverts. They reacted “not because they were extroverts in the making, but because their little bodies reacted strongly — to new sights, sounds, and smells. The quiet infants were silent not because they were future introverts — just the opposite — but because they had nervous systems unmoved by ” such stimulation (p. 102). As they grew older this high reactivity manifested itself in more stressful reactions to new people and situations, while extroverted people were easy-going. Turns out something called the amygdala in the brain affects our reactions. This came to a crux for me after TM: in even normal, not too busy and loud public settings (like a restaurant), I’d feel as if I were on sensory overload. Looking back, I can see I have pretty much always been this way. I think it just came to the forefront then because my mind and emotions were tied up with recovering from illness. Sometimes I’ve been stressed over my ability to get too easily stressed and wondered why I couldn’t take things in stride as easily as other people. It’s nice to know there is a reason! That doesn’t mean, of course, I should just give way to that and not seek God’s help as well as practical ways to react more calmly, but it does help to know it’s part of my make-up that I need to learn to deal with and not a character flaw.

Cain also dispels some myths about introverts: they are not all shy, they are not all bookish, they are not all sensitive, they are not anti-social — of the last, she says “introverts and extroverts are differently social” (p. 226). “When extroverts show up at a party, everyone knows they are present,” (p. 227), while an introvert will be quietly talking with one or two other people. Both do need and value intimacy, but introverts will likely have a few very close friends and small get-togethers rather than a lot of friends and big parties.

A chapter on communication, especially in relationships, yielded this helpful quote: “It can be hard for extroverts to understand how badly introverts need to recharge at the end of a busy day. We all empathize with a sleep-deprived mate who comes home from work too tired to talk, but it’s harder to grasp that social over-stimulation can be just as exhausting. It’s also hard for introverts to understand just how hurtful their silence can be…whatever the reasons for these differences in social needs…what’s important is that it is impossible to work through them” (p. 228).

This chapter (“The Communication Gap”) as well as the next on dealing with introverted children in ways that help and encourage them were probably the most helpful and valuable to me. It broke my heart to read one one set of highly extroverted parents seeking “treatment” for their very introverted son because they thought something was wrong with him. Cain shares a lot of ideas for both teachers and parents about ways to recognize an introverted child’s gifts and abilities and to help them in areas where they fall short, like social skills.

This book is written from a secular point of view, so there is a small smattering of words like “hell” sprinkled throughout, and I wouldn’t agree with the evolutionary reasoning behind some of the studies quoted. Some of the religious references are a bit “off,” such as this one: “The Western God is assertive, vocal, and dominant; his son Jesus is kind and tender, but also a charismatic, crowd-pleasing man of influence (Jesus Christ Superstar)” (p. 189). At first I was astounded that she would quote Jesus Christ Superstar as a reference, but then I thought maybe she was just citing it as one example of popular perception (though a mistaken one, in my opinion. Jesus was kind and tender, yes, but I wouldn’t call him charismatic and crowd-pleasing. Crowds did follow him, but for different reasons. But that’s another subject for another day).

But despite those caveats, I found this a fascinating and very helpful book in many ways. I would recommend it to both introverts and extroverts!

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)