Today I started reading Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. She and her husband created the Personality Plus personality system, which groups people into four main types. (It’ll take a while for me to explain and I’m tired.) Anyway, I was doing the quiz, when I became unsure of how to answer some of the questions. I asked my parents for their opinions on the drive home.
This is part of the conversation.
Me (to my parents):”I’m doing this personality test and I need your input. Which of the following four words best describes me:#1. Strong-willed…”
Parents (in unison) :”Strong-willed!”
Me:”I didn’t give you the other words yet.”
Mom:”We don’t need them.”
They also thought I was tenacious, outspoken, and controlled.
I asked them because they’ve known me for my entire life–including the parts I don’t remember. I like to think of myself as meek and submissive, but I’m not. A coworker once said to me, “You’re nice, but when someone backs you into a corner you’re like an angry raccoon.” I’ve never seen an angry raccoon, but I assume that they’re not as cuddly as they appear to be. Apparently, I’m the same way.
When I was a toddler, my father nicknamed me “Toughie”. He told me that, as a baby, I was a force to be reckoned with. I was big (fat), bold( mouthy), and bossy(controlling). Fortunately, fate (and genetics) intervened. I didn’t grow to be the “bruiser” that my dad thought I would be. Actually, as a child, I was petite, dainty, and placid. (Bully bait!) I think the reason that God decided I’d be short is because I would have most likely become a bully if I were any taller.
Instead, I grew to be exactly five feet and one hundred pounds of sass and sarcasm. I was bullied for most of Jr High, but people left me alone in high school because I had a reputation for verbally dressing down anyone who decided to try to battle me, and they would never see that coming because I was so small and quiet. (I also slapped one of my bullies across the face–in front of our entire 8th grade math class. That’ll teach him to mess with a boss! )
I used to be angry with God because I didn’t get to be tall (5’9″) like my brother. I also wanted hazel eyes like my dad and my mother’s long legs. (My mom and I are both short, but I have a longer torso) Still, there are a lot of benefits to being small. I am always mistaken for someone younger. People usually underestimate me (I like to see how people respond when they find out that I’m not a pushover), and I can still fit into some junior sizes–which makes a huge difference to my bank account.
I don’t feel the need to question why God made me the way I am anymore. I’m short, and I have made peace with my height. I may be tenacious, strong-willed, and persistent, but that’s how I was born to be. Everyone has been graced with a position in life that they were born to fill. Mine just happens to need a little more determination and strength than most. Who am I to resist my God-given personality, when it is so vital to my assignment?
On the flip side, I know that I will need to experience things that will wear off some of my sharp edges. I have a tendency to be unemotional and detached when others are in pain. Rather than showing compassion, my response is “Suck it up!” particularly when I think that their concern is unimportant. However, the single greatest weapon that any believer can have in their arsenal is love. Hate isn’t strong enough to counter it, and neither is pride.
Love is what sets the strong apart from the weak because it takes great strength to love someone who isn’t lovable.
The two greatest commandments in the Bible are “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”, and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We don’t get to choose who we do and do not love. The word ‘neighbor’ is inclusive, and describes everyone we come into contact with.
My gossipy two-faced coworker is my neighbour, so as a Christian, I have to love her. Even though, she never has anything nice to say about me, and I simply have nothing to say about her–nice or otherwise.
The great thing is, you don’t necessarily have to like what a person represents in order to love them.
For all I know, she might be gossipy and two-faced because she hates herself for the bad choices she’s made in her life, and since she can’t blame herself, she’s turning her anger on the people around her.
That gives me a yet another reason to “love by example”.
Poet Maya Angelou once said, “I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
You can tell when a person loves who they are. They aren’t trying to manipulate, intimidate, or gain the upper hand; they just live. They don’t need constant adulation or attention. They aren’t trying to flatter their way into anyone’s good graces, and they recognize the strengths in people rather than highlighting their weaknesses.
A person who has never experienced unconditional love isn’t going to be as able to give it. If they aren’t able to give unconditional love, they won’t recognize it. If they can’t recognize love, they won’t accept it. And then they’ll spend their lives wondering why everyone seems to leave them in the end.
If you don’t love who you are, everything in your life–your relationships, your work life, your motives for acting a certain way–is an extension of how you feel about yourself. The amount of rich and famous people who live miserable lives is proof that insecurity can’t be solved by getting everything you want. No matter what you get externally, you will never be satisfied because your mind hasn’t changed.
We are all a mixed bag of strengths, weaknesses, and potential. No one is better than anyone else, and those who think they are…well, they’re probably trying to hide their insecurity. (Or they’re a sociopath.)
Even if you think that the Bible is just a nice book of fairytales, you have to admit that Jesus’ commandment of love is legit. Love causes you to place others before yourself. It gives you a compassionate heart, one that would rather treat a gossipy two-faced coworker as normal, instead of telling her off. As Bono said, “Love is a higher law”.
Nothing can defeat it.
(That was one long digression!)
I may be a small, reserved Christian lady who is actively practicing the law of unconditional love, but, as my parents can attest, I am a fighter who becomes more unshakable when I’m opposed. That toughness was passed down from my slave ancestors who had to fight for their freedom. Their children, who had to fight to be seen as equals, and their grandchildren, who fought for respect.
I didn’t have the benefit of having everything handed to me; I had to prove myself and earn everything I have. When you’ve been blessed as I have, no one can curse you without suffering the consequences.
Am I strong willed?
Without a doubt!
I hope you enjoy my book