The misery of being introverted and the joy of being freed from it

Make no mistake about it; every day of our lives we are scrutinized, judged and either condemned or given a nod of approval by countless people who base their opinion of us on nothing more than our appearance, our clothing, our hairstyle, our smile, our tennis shoes, the symmetry of our face etc. In other words, each day we are put under the microscope of people who act as the judge and jury regarding our fitness to share space in this life with others.

Many people cannot live with the idea that they would be considered inferior or unfit to breathe, let alone do anything important in life by others. They determine to do whatever it takes to present the perfect outward appearance so as to be popular, accepted and invited to be with the cool people doing cool things. This pressure to “be cool” starts in the early grades of school and builds through middle school and reaches its peak in high school.

I have never been a “cool” person. Due to my personality, physical flaws, weight issues and my parents lack of money; I spent all 12 years of my schooling on the outside looking in at the pretty, popular and many times wealthy kids who could choose who and how many friends they have and do whatever they wanted with whomever they wanted to do it with.

Since I was not cool, grades 7-11 were the worst five years of my life. I was rejected, ignored and pretty much treated as an invisible student. I was merely a name on the seating chart and nothing more. I had no identity and nothing that distinguished me as being anyone special or worth getting to know. I had no friends in school whatsoever, not a single one. I was the consummate loner who no one would have missed if I had dropped dead one day.

I was one of the most introverted kids on earth during those five miserable years of school. I had no social skills and no teacher, counselor or administrator bothered to ever sit me down and find out what was wrong and what to do about it. I was a fairly good student and got B's in most subjects but I was not particularly good at any subject so I never stood out. I was just there each day and nothing more.

When God stepped into my lie in August of 1969, He miraculously transformed me from an introverted and unhappy (borderline morose) kid to an outgoing, happy and charismatic leader. The changes in my life not only brought me great joy but also to my parents (who had been terribly worried about me), family and the few people who cared about me. The changes God wrought in my life spoke louder than a million sermons and deeply moved those who knew my story into a closer relationship with God in their own lives.

Starting the day after God changed me in 1969 and continuing for a long time, I went out of my way to NOT conform to what other people demanded to be the standard of being cool. The clothing I wore and the way I lived life made me appear almost eccentric or even “loopy” . Some thought I had taken to using drugs and others thought I was making a social statement per the hippie movement at the time.

I was doing none of those things. I was simply living my life free from the bondage of trying to live up to the expectations people I did not even know laid upon me. This freedom allowed me to shine as a light to other kids who were downtrodden, depressed and hopelessly lost in the maze of trying to be cool. Together, we formed a thriving youth group in my church that at one time was THE coolest place in town on Sunday nights.

To this day, some 45 years after my experience in 1969, I refuse to spend my life in bondage to what others think of me. I am who I am and my concern is pleasing God and doing my best for Him and not being a “man pleaser” or becoming something and someone I am not. God chose me to be the best me I can be and that is my life's mission and I pray it is yours also.