Some People Will Never Understand You, and That's OK
Updated: Jan 3
When we first moved from the big city to a sleepy little town where nobody knew me, my introverted brain had been overloaded, over-obligated, and over-peopled for years.
The move gave me something I hadn’t had in a long time—and didn’t realize how badly I needed—time itself. I no longer had people expecting me to be there, do this, help with that. I didn’t have to be “on” all the time, and my brain could finally breathe. (Photo by yatharth roy vibhakar on Unsplash)
But it took years for my mind to recognize that the marathon was over—that it could contemplate and reflect in long, deep, life-giving breaths instead of the quick, rapid gasps that barely kept me going mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
My soul took a step back, then another, and another, and, slowly, the forest began to appear around all the trees that had been pressing in on me crowding out the view.
I started writing books and selling my art—things I didn’t have the headspace to do while living under the weight of the world’s expectations. My creativity had been stifled and pushed out by all the “shoulds” I took into myself.
We lived in our sleepy town for five quiet years before I even had the slightest inclination to begin making friends. And when I did, I was very concerned about going back to that place—the place where my brain didn’t have time to connect thoughts and feelings and notice things and process the world.
I was so scared of losing myself again, I decided to warn those around me. When the conversation lent itself, I’d say things like: “I’m very introverted,” or “Most of the time I’d prefer to be at home,” or “I need a lot of alone time to recharge.”
I thought if I clued people in early, they wouldn’t be shocked, upset, or disappointed when I turned down invitations or didn’t offer up my own. Some version of that speech occurred my in several groups. I don’t think I said it in such a way that would indicate I didn’t like or love people, but I can’t remember my exact words so maybe I did. Sometimes, I don’t realize how I come across.
And yesterday—two or three years after that first warning—one of the ladies who heard that speech brought it up. Let me preface by saying that she is a beautiful woman of God, but she is also my personality opposite. She is expressive, talkative exuberance to my reserved, thoughtful calm. She is beautiful. She can reach people in ways I never could.
But when mentioning that day, she said, “I remember when we first met you, and you pretty much said you could take or leave us and that you’d rather be at home anyway. And look at you now; you’ve grown so much! You’re stronger now than you’ve ever been.”
I took no offense at this statement because I know her, and I know her heart. But what my lovely friend doesn’t realize is that I feel exactly the same now as I did on that first day, and it has nothing to do with my growth or my love of others or whether I’m strong or not.
It’s just me—the me that needs headspace to write books and make pretty pictures and to let my mind wander to fantastical worlds for no reason and to contemplate God’s Word and let it permeate my soul and to ingest books at alarming rates.
In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis says, “There is a crowd of busy-bodies, self-appointed masters of ceremonies, whose life is devoted to destroying solitude wherever solitude still exists…. If an Augustine, a Vaughan, a Traherne, or a Wordsworth should be born in the modern world, the leaders of a youth organization would soon cure him…. We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and privacy, and, therefore, starved for meditation and true friendship.”
To be clear, I am not calling myself Augustine or Wordsworth; neither am I calling my friend a busy-body; she was not telling me how I should be but only misunderstanding where I am and what that means.
Our Western society as a whole is the busy-body, largely not accepting or valuing the quiet ones—the contemplatives who observe and learn, the scholars who pore over the old tomes, the prayer warriors who rise before the sun unbeknownst to the rest of us.
All those gifts require solitude, reflection, and time, but embraced as the Lord gave them, they will yield spiritual fruit just as any other gifts in the body of Christ. The books we read, the songs we sing, the studies that grow us spiritually, and many more intangible gifts are wrought from the silence.
My penchant and need for solitude does not need to be cured. In and of themselves, neither my alone-ness nor my desire for it were (or are) signs of spiritual immaturity. The five years I spent decompressing was a time of healing the broken me who had been attempting to be the person others wanted instead of the person the Lord made me.
There are seasons, of course—seasons when we should give more time to those around us and obvious acts of service. But stepping outside of our comfort zones should always be at the Lord’s prompting and not man’s.
I know now that the Lord does not want me in the same frazzled place I was when we moved away from the big city. That had me doing all sorts of things other people told me were useful, but it left me empty and disconnected from my relationship with God.
Friend, please know that even if you are healing, even if you are doing the thing that fuels your soul, even if you are moving toward God and not away from Him, some people won’t understand what you’re doing, and that’s OK. It’s OK to have a gift and a heart and a mind that lends itself to solitude as long as you don’t let that solitude turn your mind inward instead of on the Lord and what He wants of you.
Whatever part you are in the body of Christ, take responsibility for yourself. I could take my friends words as a condemnation that my desire for solitude is wrong, and left to fester, that would spiral me back into a flurry of legalistic attempts to serve. But God has given me peace about who I am and what He asks of me, and I rest in Him. Whether others understand it or not does not have to affect my sense of self-worth or my actions.
I’m quite certain there are wonderful, faith-filled Christians out there who I could never understand on a fundamental level, and that’s OK, too. We are all part of the body of Christ. The heart does not understand the foot. The hand does not understand the liver.
I’m pretty sure I’m something like the liver, and that’s OK.