On Doing the Thing That Isn't Natural
The world of personality types, Enneagrams, Meyers-Briggs, love languages, and DISC assessments is a world that some of my friends and I find endlessly fascinating.
I remember when I first discovered that I was an ENTJ my junior year of college; my personality made so much sense. I crave order and speed and effectiveness. I am ambitious and perfectionistic. What was even more illuminating were my flaws: I did not have much natural patience. I do not value emotions very much. I don’t intuitively show people that I want to be caring and nurturing. I gravitate towards facts and logic, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I tend to gloss over the human, heartfelt parts of someone in order to be goal-oriented and chase after intellectual things.
I also remember when I discovered that my love language is quality time. I crave long, winded, passionate five hour conversations. I love spending time with others and I feel valued all the more when people pour out their time into me. Don’t hug me, just talk!
I think that society, or people, in general sometimes tend to think that they are boxed into who they are. As in, this is just the WAY I AM. Whether it be a virtue, a vice, a habit, a trait, for better or for worse, we tend to accept things about ourselves and make life work within that framework.
I find that it’s a daunting but noble and very necessary task to be in the business of going about CHANGING those very flaws that we recognize within ourselves. We must. If we want to truly and actually become better and more complete versions of ourselves, we must actively fight the bad within us and replace it with good.
This is tough. It’s like uprooting weeds. It’s planting new seeds that take a hell of a lot of time and energy to nurture and grow.
I have to practice patience. I have to mentally challenge myself to embrace the messiness and unpleasantness of the present that impedes what I want to be doing.
I have to practice physical touch. I have to hug my husband and kiss my baby. That is how they receive my love for them. It doesn’t matter that physical touch seems irrelevant to me: what matters to my spouse in a deep way must be important for me.
I have to practice being a morning person. I am not naturally a morning person. If you would have told me years ago that I would be waking up at 5am to workout, I’d laugh in your face. But I make myself do this, because my day is always better with movement and sweat in the morning.
I have to practice caring for other people. I naturally fall into the trap of being self-absorbed and thinking that my thoughts and opinions are always correct, all of the time. I have to practice listening to others. Sympathizing with others. Loving others.
My marriage, my parenthood, my students, my friends, my family, my world in general is a better place when I practice transforming my personality flaws into deeper virtues.
For Garrett, that means taking the time to practice philosophical discussions in the kitchen or getting enraged alongside me about some stupid thing that he really doesn’t care about. It means practicing being a tidy human, because I value cleanliness and order and what makes me happy ought to also be simultaneously a thing that he strives to do.
For my mom, it has meant learning how to let the lists and problems of the day fall by the wayside and practice resting in the present moment. And finding the good things that dwell in it.
Maybe for you, it means not procrastinating and putting off important work because it is good to be ordered.
Maybe it means biting back on the sarcastic remarks. The gossip and assuming the worst.
Maybe it means self control, discipline, or staying true to what you really desire in life.
Maybe it means freaking KINDNESS towards strangers and people that bother us because we force ourselves to remember that everyone is fighting a battle.
Whatever it means for you, we could all use more of practicing that almost terrifying power that we have inside us to root out the bad stuff within our soul and make an effort to foster the virtues we wish we possessed in the first place.
Tolstoy wrote that “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Maybe because we forget. Maybe because we don’t know how.
But I think we would all be amazed at what happens when we decide to start.