Saturday, December 20, 2008

The value of self-understanding

Last weekend I spent a few days with some of my college buddies in Nashville, attending a wedding and enjoying the city (in spite of frigid weather). It was really the first time I have spent extended time in a southern state, and the first thing I noticed was that people were very friendly and EXTREMELY talkative. I have a feeling that my book will sell well in the south, as I would bet that introverts in the south feel particularly odd and displaced in their churches.

It was a very extroverted weekend in general. Four of us were staying in the same hotel room, so there was no where I could retreat. Two of my friends are extreme extroverts, with seemingly limitless social energy. Since it was just for a few days, I tended to go along with the activities they wanted to do, though by the third night I was exhausted. As an introvert, I require more sleep than my extroverted friends, but the sleeping arrangements did not allow for adequate sleep. My friends are some of my favorite people in the world, but by the end of the weekend I was definitely irritable and in desperate need of some personal space.

What I was happy about, by the end of the weekend, was how much my self-understanding has progressed over the past few years. A few years ago, I would have come home from a trip like that and my wife and I would have wound up in conflict because of introverted and extroverted differences. Yet we have come to understand each other's differences, and she knew that I would not have much capacity for recapping my trip or listening to her talk about her weekend. I assured her that as soon as I had more energy we could catch up on what happened. I felt annoyed when I got home but I knew not to take it out on her and she knew not to take it personally. I recognized that the next day I would need an entire day to myself to recharge and find my bearings again. I also knew that my brain chemicals were off kilter, and that as an introvert, I needed a lot of sleep to restore balance. I made sure my schedule the next morning didn't start too early.

Self-understanding not only benefits us, but it benefits others and our relationships with them.