Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Prayer for Congress

This morning I had the mind-boggling honor to serve as a guest chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives and to offer the opening prayer for the day's legislative business. I am deeply grateful to the House chaplain, Father Patrick Conroy, and my congressman, Rep. David Dreier, for helping make this happen.

Here was my prayer:

Gracious God, we acknowledge and praise you on this day that you have made.

We are reminded that all power and authority ultimately come from you. We do not wield our own power but we are stewards who have been entrusted with a greater power.

May the work that is done today in the halls of the powerful be done on behalf of the powerless. Would you open our ears to listen to the needs and the cries of those who are seldom heard. May the strong voices today speak out for the sake of those with no voice.

Would you grant our leaders courage and wisdom to do what is right, and would you pour out on them a spirit of peace, love, kindness, and gentleness.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Big Day

 Just a reminder that I will be a guest chaplain on the floor of the House of Representatives on February 28th, and you can watch live on C-Span (I'll be on at 12 noon eastern/9am pacific) or online at http://houselive.gov/

See you in March!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Introvert Saturday: In Review

I know a lot of people are new to the blog, so welcome! Come and get away for a while. For the last 6 months I have been posting guest posts on Saturday, in a series called "Introvert Saturday." Unfortunately, I have run out of guest posts. So, consider this an invitation to write about your experiences as an introvert. I would be especially interested to hear about how introversion interacts with world cultures. It seems like for a while I was getting a lot of emails from Canada, then from the UK, and now from Australia. I would love to read posts about introverts in Africa, in Hispanic countries, and in Asia, and from pretty much anywhere else. I'd also be curious to hear about the experience of introverts in black, Hispanic, and Asian churches. Please write me a post! 500-600 words emailed to adamsmchugh at gmail dot com.

For now, for those of you who are new, I want to post a few of my favorite reviews of my book, Introverts in the Church. What's great about them is that they are not just book reviews, but they also include stories about the experiences of introverts in our culture.

Popular blogger Rachel Held Evans asks if you are Extrovert or Introvert? A review of Introverts in the Church.

Mark D. Roberts posts a 4 part series: Introverts in the Church: An Interview and Review.

From a Reformed perspective, check out Steve McCoy at Reformissionary (still my all-time favorite review) and Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition.

And last, check out Internet Monk on Introverts in the Church.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dealing with Criticism

Christian writers like myself almost never get mainstream media coverage. But, thanks to Susan Cain and her instant blockbuster Quiet my name is getting thrown out in all kinds of venues. It has been gratifying to get my work recognized, especially more than two years after my book was initially released.

Unfortunately, my new-found notoriety comes with some downsides. In the past couple of weeks I and my intentions have been misrepresented in a couple of places, which has happened in the past, but is particularly hurtful when it happens in publications with such large market share and lofty reputations. You spend 5 years carefully honing a message, trying to present it in the most balanced and helpful way, and then it gets caricatured and dismissed in a paragraph by someone who will be writing about something completely different the next day.

So I want to talk a little about how I deal with criticism, and I would love your input and suggestions for how you deal with criticism. This post is a lot of self-talk, to be honest, as I'm trying to work this out for myself.

Here are some of the guidelines I have come up with. They are enumerated but not necessarily because I move through them chronologically.

1. Avoid the knee-jerk reaction. This is the first thing I do. This is where I try to stay as far away from a computer as I can. No Twitter, Facebook, or blogging. 99% of the time the quick-hit reaction is unhelpful. There is a reason why the word "reactionary" has such a negative connotation - it describes someone who speaks from a raw and angry place. These reactions do not help the conversation and usually only come across as immature and insecure.

In dealing with critics of my work, I actually almost never respond at all. I have responded one time, after a couple of days of cooling down, but if I had the chance to do it again, I would stay silent. In the case of a personal relationship, a response may be necessary, but a knee-jerk response is even more destructive. This is why marriage counselors pretty much universally encourage couples to do "time-outs" when the emotions in the room become so high that constructive conversation is impossible.

2. Listen to the feelings. One response for coping with criticism is to pretend the feelings aren't there, but they are, and if you don't acknowledge them they will only fester and come out in unhealthy ways. People will usually feel angry at first but anger is usually hiding the deeper feelings: hurt, rejection, shame, fear. Say hello to your feelings - they are there for a good reason and they are meant to help you. And then listen to those feelings. What are they teaching you? What are they revealing about yourself? Are these feelings reminiscent of feelings you have had at other times?

3. Remember your identity. The reason why some criticism burns away at us so much is because they bring into question our identity. It's one thing to be corrected for something you did that was wrong, but it's something else entirely when "wrong" is a way that you have subconsciously defined yourself or others in your past have defined you. Sometimes a small criticism can tap unintentionally into a raging river of self-hatred and inadequacy. When you believe something about yourself to be true then the smallest critique can set that off. On the other hand, if someone says something about you that you don't truly believe to be true then it won't affect you much. Criticism is a good opportunity to learn what you truly believe about yourself, in your heart-of-hearts.

This is where, if you are a Christian, it is helpful to review all the words the scriptures say about you: image of God, son or daughter of the Father, brother or sister of Christ, redeemed, justified, beloved.

4. Ask what's true. There is this funny little story in the life of David in 2 Samuel 16, in which this random guy named Shimei starts throwing rocks and cursing David. David's army wants to do away with him, but David orders them not to respond, because, as he explains, the Lord may have instructed him to curse the king. I believe that some criticism comes our way as a helpful corrective, even if it is not said in the most ameliorating spirit. This is why, after I have let me emotions settle, that I will ask "Is there anything true about was said?"

5. Get out of your head. I purposefully put this one last, because I do not want people to think that this means not to acknowledge the emotions. After I have done all the internal work, I have gotten out of the experience what I can. If I keep stewing at this point, the criticism burns away at me like an acid. I find that in directing my attention elsewhere - and usually to a non-intellectual or emotional end - that the effect will quickly wear off. A conversation with a friend, a round of golf, a movie, doing something with my hands, and I'm usually okay.

How do you deal with criticism? What would you add to this list?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Guest post on Internet Monk

One of my favorite blogs, Internet Monk, has posted a blog of mine called "A Matter of Motivation."

A few years ago, when studying the neurology of introversion, I realized that in Christian communities we often mistake brain chemicals for love. The people we say have the most love or passion in the church are often those who thrive on the dopamine that is released in social activity, i.e. extroverts. In this post on Internet Monk I talk more about these misnomers and finish with what biblical love actually looks like.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Networking allergies

My undergraduate degree comes from a school that placed a large emphasis on networking. I spent those four years mingling, small talking, and smiling.  My face still hurts. And while I love my college, it was there that I developed an allergy to networking, or more accurately, to the way some of the students practiced it. My group of close friends gathered around our mutual disdain of shmoozing.

So imagine my shock when a writer from my alumni magazine recently contacted me about an article on networking. She contacted graduates from the political realm, consulting, and uh, me. Primarily she wanted out to find out how in the world I got this gig as a guest chaplain in the House of Representatives, but we ended up having a good discussion about introverts and networking. The question underneath the discussion was "Can only gregarious, aggressive people who excel in small talk network effectively?"

As you may have seen already, introversion has become a big topic in our society recently, and it's possible that we're even approaching a tipping point in the discussion. Articles, posts, and books about introverts in an extrovert society are showing up everywhere. David Murray recently turned me on to a recent article by Lisa Petrelli on the Harvard Business Review blog, "An Introvert's Guide to Networking."

Petrelli boils down the lessons she has learned as an introverted networker in three main points:

1. I learned to appreciate my introversion rather than repudiate it.
2. I stopped being afraid to be the one to reach out.
3. I learned to prioritize time to re-charge.

I commend the article to you, because I think she does an excellent job of balancing how to use our strengths as an introverts and also how to stretch out extroverted muscles a bit. If you want to know more specific techniques I have employed in networking check out my post The Necessary Evil of Book Promotion.

What I want to say today is less about specific techniques and more about perspective. When I dig to the root of why I have a emotional resistance to networking (even the word makes me cringe), it is not because of my introversion. It is because shmoozing often has a whiff of inauthenticity to it. So often it seems like people approach it with the intention of trying to get something out it, to manipulate a situation or conversation to go how they want it to. And so it becomes a game, and other people become players on your chess board who must be moved into the best position so you can win.

If you approach networking in that light, you will likely find it unsatisfying, even detestable. I want to propose different questions for networking. I think the questions that ought to drive us are not "What can I get out of the situation?" or "How can I work people to my advantage?" but "Who am I meeting?" and "What can I learn?" The people that you talk to have dreams, hopes, and passion - that's how they got to the position they are in the first place. They have succeeded, and they have failed. They have families and marriages and children, that provide them all kinds of delight and all kinds of pain. And people that are worth meeting can teach you things about work, relationships, and life. They can usually spot a game-player from a mile away - they may even have played those games - but they will also be receptive to someone who has a genuine curiosity to learn from them. If you focus on being interested rather than interesting, people will remember you.

One authentic, meaningful conversation in a social event is far more satisfying, human, and less exhausting than 10 conversations that you try to play to your advantage.