Inner Peace?

[Chad Gundy, 2017-18 participant] I am not writing this as an attempt to give advice or make sense of the world, but rather as a way to share a story, because I believe that sharing and listening to stories is a great way for us to understand each other a little better. I hope you enjoy.

Shalom Project Participant

In college there were many occasions where I battled with finding inner peace. An example of an outcome of these battles is when I changed my major from Education to Information Technology.

Everyone has different ways to engage these battles. I like to think that some might do yoga. Others might go on a walk through the woods. I knew one friend who would make alone time where they would just be still. However, I’ve felt as though I’ve never really had my “thing” that ignited this deep, self-reflective thinking. I mean sure, I would often be playing the guitar alone in my room and singing, but that was more to practice than anything. I would longboard to Bob’s for some fries or go shoot hoops by myself, but none of these seemed to result in this deeper understanding of myself. They were just things I enjoyed doing, and I didn’t mind doing them by myself.

When I first spoke to Nathan about the Shalom Project, I grew excited when he talked about the focus that the project puts on personal, inward peace. I remember connecting strongly when he shared this idea of God pouring into us, and then we use that so we can pour into our communities. As I was dedicating the next year to voluntary service, I was excited to not only be a part of a program that thought about serving in this way, but also on taking time to discover what my “thing” would be that would allow my way to self-reflect.

I guess the real reason I felt like I needed to improve on my self-reflection skills is that I saw so many people that were good at it and benefitted from it. Throughout college I was exposed to practices like silent retreats, challenges to take 10 minutes a week and just be still, and ideas of solitude being essential. And even though I tried, I could never find my “thing” or “practice” that I thought would lead me to inner peace.

As I entered into the Shalom Project, I again tried to find my way to reflect. I would try to sit and be still in a meditative way. That didn’t work, as I would quickly think about going disc golfing. Okay, well then maybe while I was disc golfing I could go and think about things while I was on the course. Active reflection could be a thing, right? Well that didn’t work either, as I would quickly get distracted by how lousy my last backhand drive was and only be able to focus on throwing a frisbee.

I was not ready to give up, but my first attempts at achieving inner peace had failed.

It was around this time that we had our first official seminar. The topic was Myers-Briggs. For those of you who don’t know, Myers-Briggs is essentially an assessment that uses four letters to describe your personality type. According to Myers-Briggs, you are either an E or an I, an S or an N, a T or F, and P or J. I’ll let you do the research on what this means if you are unaware, as I would butcher any kind of description of it.

I had heard of Myers-Briggs before this. I had taken the online test of about 100 questions and learned what my personality type was. I had met people who thought that Myers-Briggs was the greatest thing ever, and people who thought it was dumb and 4 letters didn’t define who they were. I was somewhere in the middle, and I probably still am (if you would like to have a longer conversation on Myers-Briggs I would be happy to talk with you at some point!).

The way we did this seminar was we went through what each letter meant (so E vs. I, S vs N, etc) as a group and then went around and explained what we thought we were. I had a really hard time with the first two, and I started to think something along the lines of, “Man, I really don’t know myself do I? I really need to work on this…” However, the last 2 letters were super easy for me, and I began to feel quite a bit better.

We then got papers that described our personality type and the different traits they typically have. I remember reading through it and being surprised on how accurate it was, even though my first two letters seemed to be really borderline. Naturally, there were some things that I disagreed with, but all in all, it was like I was reading about myself.

I didn’t think much about the seminar until one day at dinner. In the Shalom House we partner up and cook 3 dinners (suppers) that we eat together every week. We always struggled with a way to start of these meals. One way we have tried is this awesome idea that we open the meal with “picking on” (again with the quotes) someone and giving them compliments and/or tell them something we appreciate about them, and then close by “picking on” someone else. And the person who you are complimenting has to just take it and say thanks. It was a strange kind of torture.

Anyway, I was the first to be tortured, er, I mean complimented. During this time, some of my housemates told me that they appreciated my “smile and optimism,” or something along those lines.

This stuck out to me because I have never thought of myself as an optimist. I’ve always defined myself as a “pessimistic realist,” if you will. I did this, because well, I liked to think of myself as a realist. However, this wasn’t the first time that I was labeled as an optimist this year.

(If you guessed that the other place that labeled me as an optimist was my Myers-Briggs personality paper, you are correct! Hurray!) After hearing that, I decided to look back on my Myers-Briggs sheet and see if there were any other insights.

Here is where I found the answer to all of my questions!!

Okay not really, but I did discover something that has helped me a lot.

So, I am an E. That means I am an extrovert, and extroverts struggle with introspective thinking that introverts are naturally good at.

I first learned I was an extrovert in college when I took the online assessment. I am like 51% extroverted and 49% introverted according to that test. So it’s close, but I know now that it is definitely true. It seems strange that someone who enjoys disc golfing by themselves, reading, and sitting in his room playing the guitar as much as I do would be extroverted. It seems even stranger when you add on the facts that I am not a party person, I am super shy, and I do not talk much when I meet someone new. So I’m pretty much one of the world’s worst extroverts.

However, the focus of this is not HOW I’m an extrovert, but rather THAT I am an extrovert. And not only that I am an extrovert, but also that I am every other little letter that I am (I’m going to let you guess on the rest).

As I was wishing to learn who I was, I thought that the only way to do this was through some sort of prolonged, meditative strategy that required a lot of INTRO(see what I did there)spection. However, that’s not what my strengths are, and this realization that, “Hey, you’re not naturally good at this,” was such an important one for me.

Looking back, there is definitely comedic value to me asking trying to answer the questions of “Who am I? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? How can I use my strengths in my life?” through a means in which I am not naturally gifted (After typing that it seems less funny and more sad. Oh well.).

Now this isn’t to say that I should never be introspective. I am extroverted, which means that I need introversion for balance. I can still benefit from being reflective and taking time for myself. I mean, I’m writing a blog. If I didn’t think reflection was important, would I really be doing that?

So, let’s wrap this up. I am not naturally reflective. I am not good at taking time for myself to think about my feelings and really process that. But that does not mean that I can’t have a sense of inner peace. For me, inner peace didn’t come from some huge epiphany that appeared after hours of processing and reflecting. Instead it came with the acceptance that the math-loving, sometimes-hyper, super-unorganized, shower-singing, rather-take-a-nap-than-talk-about-my-feelings person that I am is who God made me to be.