Disciple Up # 145
Two Kinds of People
By Louie Marsh, 2-5-2020
I’ve read a lot of articles, jokes, etc that start with the line, “There are two kinds of people…” Today I’m adding my own ideas to this mix, whether it’s wanted, needed and helpful or not!
Based on my 52 years of experience, I think that there are two kinds of people in the world, those who are introspective and those who aren’t.
These two kinds of people aren’t easy to tell apart at first, and they get along well most of the time. But they look at the world, and especially themselves, in very different ways.
The non-introspective person tends to slide through life dealing with whatever comes his or her way without wondering too much about what it all means, and why they do what they do. You rarely find them wondering about their motives, and when they do they tend to quickly come up with an answer – often humorous – that pushes those thoughts away so they don’t have to bother with them anymore.
When you talk to people like this you often hear them say that they go through life as smoothly as possible, and they don’t like being put in a position of trying to figure out why they do what they do or think or feel they way they do. They tend to dodge as much of that as they can, and if asked why often reply, “All that stuff’s just a waste of time!”
They want to move on, get the job done, or just enjoy the moment, laugh and have fun, or just watch TV. What you see is what you get could be their life slogan or goal. They don’t want to sweat what they see as “the small stuff” of their personal motives, feelings, doubts, etc. In fact, these kinds of people will often tell you they never doubt – or at least do so very rarely.
Strong, solid and reliable, they are usually great people to work with and can be a lot of fun. They are not the kind of people who are going to give you a long, detailed conversation or debate about philosophical or theological or – God Forbid! – psychological issues!
This of course frustrates the second kind of person to no end – which is why I suppose introspectives tend to marry non-introspectives.
The second kind of person is the Introspective. This kind of person approaches life and self from the polar opposite position of the non-introspective. He or she is constantly asking a lot of questions, and their interior dialogue tends to be filled with a lot of questions like:
Why did I do that?
What does that mean?
How do I know that’s true or false?
Am I really fulfilling God’s plan for my life – and what the heck is it anyway?
I could go on but you get the idea.
This kind of person not only wants to deal all these personal issues and more besides, they need too! You could even say they have too. To not pursue these questions would ultimately result in total, screaming insanity!
Introspectives face the temptation of thinking they are deeper than non introspectives, though whether or not they are is actually an open question. They certainly spend more time thinking about things, but that opens them up to becoming overly introspective, and far too subjective.
Let me close this post with a question and some hints at where I might be going with it.
I’d like to know which one of these you think you are – let me know in the comments! I’ll tell you where I see myself in all this – although if you know me you already know this I’m sure – in my next post.
Some of the questions I want to explore in later posts on this topic include but are not limited to:
Why the difference?
How does this affect our spirituality? Is it easer for one type to grow spiritually than another?
Do these differences make any difference in the end?
Is it better to be introspective or non introspective?
Is there anything you can do about it?
To start with let me set the record straight and say that I am definitely in the Introspective category, as if you couldn’t tell. If you know me you probably know that, and if you don’t you probably guessed that anyway. After all if I was an introspective I wouldn’t be asking these kinds of questions in the first place!
I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. Early on I was an odd mixture of skeptical and naïve. I would tend to believe what I was told if the person doing the telling seemed nice and sincere. On the other hand I also found myself asking questions that other kids didn’t seem to be asking. I got into a lot of trouble that way!
By the time I was in High School two things happened. One – I became a Christian. Two – my faith clashed head on with what I had been taught about the world, and the culture at large which was in the throes of rapid change.
As a result I plagued the Minister of my church, and my poor long suffering Youth Group Sponsors with tons of questions, doubts, arguments, etc. I was a very sincere and usually polite, teenaged pain in the neck!
The main battlefields for me at that time were evolution and the war in Vietnam. I was a believer in the former and an opponent of the latter. I fought this two front war for pretty much my entire High School career.
In spite of all that, and a bad recommendation from a leader in my church, I went off to Bible College because I had “dedicated my life to full time Christian Service,” as we said back then.
It was sometime in college or shortly thereafter that I found this passage of Scripture that finally let me know that I wasn’t alone and I wasn’t a bad Christian for constantly feeling the need to question things.
“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:22-24 (NIV)
I felt then, and still do, the man’s response to Jesus perfectly captures how I often feel. I believe alright – but at the same time I’m skeptical! This is actually a beautiful description of a word that’s mostly misunderstood these days. Thanks largely to so called “faith teachers” who don’t understand what faith actually is!
That word is doubt.
You hear these TV preachers constantly railing against, “doubt and unbelief.” By tying these two things together they accomplish a couple of things. They bind people to them and their teaching as the only way to escape doubt and unbelief. They also guarantee that their coffers will be replenished by the faithful seeking a stronger faith.
Finally – they completely misrepresent what the word doubt actually means! The word doubt in Greek and English for that matter – means to be suspended between two things. It is NOT the opposite of faith – unbelief is! Doubt is not being sure either way.
For example faith is sure God exists, unbelief is sure He doesn’t, doubt isn’t sure either way.
Introspective people have a lot of doubt. Which sounds really bad I know. But actually it doesn’t have to be a negative force in your life at all. In my life it has impelled me to investigate the issue at hand. It’s driven me to find answers and not quit until I’m really satisfied deep down inside.
This then illustrates the advantages and disadvantages of being introspective. On the one hand you suffer a lot of uncertainty, on the other hand you face things others don’t and often go a lot deeper into things than a non-introspective person would.
But to have that outcome you have to handle your doubt and introspective tendencies correctly. If you don’t respond appropriately to your doubts you can end up feeling condemned and defeated by all your questions.
And if you don’t strike a careful balance with your introspective tendencies you’ll end up completely self-absorbed – and that is a spiritual disaster!
The way you have to react is to realize a doubt or question is an opportunity to grow and find new answers for yourself. It’s not an attack on God or His Word, it’s a question for my Father. But now I have to get out of myself – into His Word, history, and whatever else is necessary to find the answers I need.
Finding the answers, I fortify my faith, and then move forward in service to God and others. I do not sit around and stare at my navel all day long!
So I believe being an introspective person can be a real benefit to your spiritual growth and life, it sure has been for me!
So far I’ve looked at some of the advantages and disadvantages of being introspective. Of course you’d expect me to major on the advantages of being introspective since that’s the type of person I am right?
Okay, so let’s look at a disadvantage (or “challenge” for the PC crowd! 😉 ). Jesus laid down a bedrock condition for discipleship, one that is tough for everyone.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24 (NIV)
Self denial is an absolute condition for following Christ. But it didn’t start with Him. If you look in the Old Testament you’ll find Yahweh calling upon the Israelites to deny themselves and obey His Law too. Look at this fascinating passage.
The LORD said to Moses, “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.” Leviticus 23:26-32 (NIV)
Surprised? I was when I found it in good old WORDsearch! Here what Keil & Delitzsch have to say about it.
On the tenth day of the seventh month the day of atonement was to be observed by a holy meeting, by fasting from the evening of the ninth till the evening of the tenth, by resting from all work on pain of death, and with sacrifices, of which the great expiatory sacrifice peculiar to this day had already been appointed in ch. 16, and the general festal sacrifices are described in Num 29:8-11. (For fuller particulars, see at ch. 16.) By the restrictive אַךְ, the observance of the day of atonement is represented a priori as a peculiar one. The אַךְ refers less to “the tenth day,” than to the leading directions respecting this feast: “only on the tenth of this seventh month…there shall be a holy meeting to you, and ye shall afflict your souls,” etc.—Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
So God is calling upon all of Israel to deny themselves by fasting and not working as they celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Fasting is an obvious sacrifice to all us junk food eating Americans – but not working?
I know a lot of people who love not working! Love it that is until they discover they aren’t going to be paid! Sorry to tell you but God isn’t offering any paid leave of absence to worship Him! It’s a sacrifice you make to please Him! In those days of subsistence farming, you can imagine that it really was quite a sacrifice.
One of the problems here for us Introspectives is that it’s very, very, very – and I mean very! – hard for us to stop thinking about ourselves long enough to deny ourselves. Why sometimes we positively fall in love with how complicated, devious, and complex we are! Christian Introspectives give thanks to God alright – and then plunge right back into themselves!
Even when I’m trying to be denying I find myself pondering the mysteries of how much this self denial is costing me, or how it’s making me feel, etc. It’s as easy as sweating on a hot June day in Parker for me to stop thinking about God and starting thinking about my favorite subject – that’s right – ME!!
Now do you see the problem?
If only Christ had called me to analyze myself as I follow Him, then I’d be smack dab in the center of the Divine Will! Sadly such is not the case!
So I’m stuck with trying to deny myself and not obsess about it as I do it! It’s like trying to write when that little Editor in your mind keeps yelling at you. Often you have to shut him up and turn him off to get anything done. Same here really.
This is a huge problem for us Introspectives, and it doesn’t stop here either. Since worship is essentially forgetting about myself and expressing love for God, I face huge temptation here as well. All the way from analyzing the quality of the music or sermon, to losing focus on what’s happening in the service to think about how this makes ME feel, to wishing they’d hurry up because my rear end is sore, it’s a struggle.
Score one for the Non-Introspectives?
Well yes, kind of. Of course there is another side to this issue (you just knew that was coming didn’t you? Come on – admit it!).
To deny myself, to carry my cross and die to myself, bespeaks a certain level knowledge of myself doesn’t it? After all I can’t deny or give up something that I don’t know I have or am. So even here which ever kind of person you are brings with it challenges.
And that I suppose is the real point to all this. Like being outgoing or shy, being self aware and focused or not isn’t a matter of better or worse, it’s just the way you are!
Either one can and will be used by God to bless you, those around you and bring glory to His Name. And either one can be used by the devil or by yourself to trip you up!
It’s all a part of being a fallen human being in a fallen world!
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