I mulled this over for months — what to say and how to give voice to what many of us experience if we are literal, serious people. My guess is that it may take two blogs (at least) to share. So let’s begin.
You know, my life is really like this (linear, process-driven)
And of course, when I say my life is like a straight line, I mean this (peaks and valleys, lots of steps)
But it is most certainly not this (fluid, circular)
My life is not fluid, nor is that my preference. I prefer rules, logic and structure — lots of structure. I find safety in the boundaries, so “going with the flow” is an immediate exile from the comfort zone. But Holy Spirit teaches us and loves us best and we learn to trust Him for the sake of obedience first, then later we appreciate the “flow.”
If you’re like me, then you know our literal-ness has many advantages… We follow directions well and have strong follow through. We detest the lack of closure or completion of a thing. We can be a great help to others; we are trustworthy to steward organizations and ministries. We become reference people for policy, process and procedure. We can see how to bring order in chaos. We have the plan. We come with the plan.
We see in black and white. We take personal pride in achievement. We love accomplishment. We are incredibly integrous. We stick to the absolute truth; there is no gray with us. We highly value keeping our word, so when people carelessly promise to call us tonight or make plans for next week, and we follow up to no avail….our response ranges from disappointment to considering as a lie what “they” carelessly said with no ill-intent. (If you’re not a literal person, then you shrug this off and say you were just talking. But literal people do not waste words. I cannot tell you how many times this creates a breach. If you keep saying what you will do – no matter how small – and do not do it, then over time you become a person we cannot believe for big things because you fall through in small things.)
People know where they stand with us. Generally our method comes across as harsh or abrasive because others tend to “color” the truth or expect a spoonful of sugar with the medicine, so to speak. So people constantly talk to us about HOW we say things when we wait for the acknowledgment of WHAT we said.
This leads me to a few disadvantages. 1 – Socially we can be awkward because we miss jokes and hints and clues. People with whom we share close bonds and great comfort are the only people who know we have a sense of humor or make jokes on our own.
2 – We tend to become known for what we do well, not necessarily to be known in relationship. The “networkers” and “elbow rubbers” just want gifts when we seek relationships.
3 – We are deep, lol. I know we do not like this word, but we are. We are deep thinkers and speakers and it comes across. We want to exchange knowledge with others, who for different reasons think we try to prove our intelligence. This isn’t true; we simply see more teachable moments than most and we value learning.
4 – People try to change us… they indite us for “being too literal” and tell us how we need to change to suit them. WAIT — all their suggestions aren’t bad and could help us. It’s their lack of acceptance that throws the hard blow because they suggest that our need to change is a deficiency, that in ourselves we are not enough. And that hurts.
[Yeah, we will continue on another post.]
Let me say this… The Lord knows how He wired the literal. And He sends us people He trusts with us, to help us lighten up, laugh more, and be less serious.
I’ve got one brother in particular who the Lord gave this task, and our first couple of years were FULL OF FIGHTS because he constantly joked and I constantly missed them. So in the next post, we may cover how to get to understanding with literal people. The first thing — warn us that you’re joking. It may seem uncomfortable at first, but it teaches us to hear outside of ourselves and soon enough we become joke-tellers.
Selah, and love to all.