In a perfect world each person would be attentive to the needs and wants of all those around them. We would both gladly give of our time and resources, as well as gladly receive the services offered by others. Alas, this is not a perfect world. There are those who are not yet converted, so they don’t want to be bothered with other’s needs and wants, focusing instead on themselves and their own needs. Then there are those who are socially timid and would love nothing more than to just be left alone. These differences in people’s temperaments are just the beginning of the challenges of ministering.
Read part one of this series here.
The big picture
The big picture means that we need to learn to look at the human family as just that, a family. Think about the differences in personality within your own immediate and extended family. Very few of us, even in our immediate family have the same disposition and desires. Some are outgoing, while others are reserved. Some are fearless, while others are afraid of their own shadow.
My whole life I have been envious of two of my siblings. My older brother is afraid of nothing. He is comfortable in any social setting, and is a natural-born leader. One of my younger sisters is gregarious and self absorbed, but readily makes friends and is always the life of the party. Then there is me. I love to serve and do things for others, but find it difficult to be the recipient of service. I am an idealist, and am painfully aware of my social deficits. I am completely awkward in my own skin and have difficulty making friends. People either seem to really like me or hate me. There aren’t many who can take me or leave me. I seem to have a polarizing effect on people.
My point in detailing a few of the personalities just within my own family is that God has an unlimited supply of children, (all part of that eternal increase blessing) and no two of them are identical, no matter how much they may look alike on the outside. This means he must have infinite patience and tolerance. His love encompasses all of us, as well as our foibles and idiosyncrasies. We don’t have His all-encompassing view of humanity. We tend to congregate into small clusters of like-minded brothers and sisters. This leads us to the false assumptions that we can segregate the world into groups of us versus them – those who are like us, and those who we think need to be like us. This is not a realistic view of life, and inevitably leads to conflict and hurt feelings.
The goal, which is Zion, is a people who are of one heart and one mind. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this means we all have to think and act alike. It certainly does NOT mean that we have to want the same things and feel the same way. It DOES mean that we will have learned by that time to know how to work with each other’s individual personalities and differences. I believe the quote in the Church is “Unity through diversity.” If there is one thing in this world, of which there is a limitless supply, it is individual differences.
Some are natural hermits, wishing to be left alone to do their own thing. The reasons for their wishes to be left alone may be as unlimited as the numbers of those wishing to be left alone. Then there are those who want to be in the know. I have a daughter who is like this. She wants to be the family information broker, always being the first to know everything about everybody’s business. She also wants to be the first one to dispense that information. Again, the reasons for why people would want to be “up in everyone else’s business” is as varied as the number of people on the planet.
How does this fit in a Zion society? Does the Lord expect us to be aware of our neighbors and their needs? Yes, He does. Does that mean He also expects us to be “all up in their business?” No, it certainly does not. So how do we determine what our boundaries are? How can we tell what we should be doing to and for our neighbors?
I have two members of my family that drive me nuts. In my case they both happen to be female, but the gender is not the deciding factor here. Both are quick to jump to conclusions about the other one. Both are quick to jump to the wrong conclusions, mostly because they assume the worst, instead of the best in each other. I am constantly saying to one or both of them, and sometimes to both of them together, “Talk to each other!” So many problems could be solved before they get out of control if we did two things: assume the best, and talk openly about expectations and hopes. I suppose there is a third item that is indispensable here as well. Number 3 is the need to respect the expressed wishes of the other person. This means, of course, that each person is practicing in their personal lives how to verbalize how they truly feel. Some of us are so awkward at expressing our feelings and wishes that when we finally put them into words they don’t resemble how we really feel at all. This is something we all need to work on.
Putting it into action
Here is a quote from a comment I received on part one of this article, Facing the Ministering Before Us. This is something I had never contemplated before, and was an eye-opener for me. The quote opens with a statement from the first article.
“What we sometimes forget is that ministering requires that we get involved in someone else’s life.”
The supposition from this article and especially this line is that people WANT you involved in their lives and in their business.
This is great for the Extroverts and the Needy-for-Attention portion of the Church–BUT WHAT NO ONE EVER CONSIDERS is that it is a NIGHTMARE for the introverts and private members.
Please, is there a way that the ones who want to be all up in other’s business–and the ones who want people all up in their business and having Interaction —could be matched up with each other??’And leave those of us for whom all this is so off-putting and terribly uncomfortable can just be excused from it?
I asked this very question to our Extremely needy-for-attention/interaction Bishop and he said “Remember, as Sister Oscarson said– It is not about you. Its about what others want FROM YOU.”
So my Question is:
Why does part of the Church matter and get their way–and the other part of members (like me) don’t?
Why are part of us expected to suck it up and buy into the theory that it is ‘not about us’ but that it must be about the others and THEIR way and THEIR neediness?
This question was revelatory to me. From here on I am expressing my own personal views and not necessarily the views of Church leaders, so take it with a grain of salt and try to match it up with your own personal experience in life and in the Church.
The question being asked here is just as one sided in its wording as the one she is complaining about. She states that those who want to be up in everyone’s business have complete control in the Church. This, in itself isn’t quite true, and isn’t fully fair. Yes, there is an assumption that we all need to be served at some point in our lives. That is true. Whether we want to be served is a completely different discussion. But all of us need to be served at some point.
The assumption that those who are the extroverts have complete control over the Church is only partly true. Leaders, by definition, can’t afford to be complete introverts. They have to put themselves out there because their callings require it of them. This may seem to tilt the scales in their favor when it comes to the attitudes they teach to others, because it is natural that they teach the attitudes they themselves hold dear. That is human nature, right?
What is not correct, in my opinion, is the blanket assumption by many in the Church that we all need to be involved in each other’s business at all times. I freely admit that used to be my opinion. That is not right, though I can see how one might arrive at that conclusion. For example, if I am assigned to minister to someone and I am trying to get to know them as a family or as an individual, what is my responsibility? My job is to become involved with that person or family enough that I can identify needs/wants and be able to minister to them in whatever way the Spirit moves me to help. I also need to be good enough friends with them that they learn to trust that I am there for them, and not just as an assignment from the ward to be tolerated. They need to believe that I am genuine in my care and concern for them as a person or a family. This requires a certain amount of interaction and trust building.
But what is their responsibility to me as their ministering brother? Yes, they do have a responsibility to me. I can’t help them if they won’t let me into their lives, even if just a little bit. I have no problems with them wanting to be left alone most of the time. But I can’t do my job if they aren’t willing to help me a little. Is it asking too much of someone to honestly agree that if there are needs they will call/text me? Is it asking too much to ask that they allow me to periodically contact them to follow up on how they are doing? I’m not talking about being on their doorstep, fruitcake in hand, every week of the year. I’m talking about once a quarter if that is what they want. Is that really asking too much? I certainly hope not.
Remember that it is Satan who wants to split us up into groups. The more divided we are the more inroads he has to divide us further and prevent us from becoming a Zionlike people. To split the Church into extroverts and introverts is to divide God’s family into factions, something God would never permit. His goal for all of us is to become one, despite our differences. This is something we need to work out among ourselves. It has to be done on a person-by-person basis. It is like conversion. No one can tell you how to be devoted to gospel living, it has to happen on a personal, individual basis. Learning to respect the differences among us and love each other anyway is the same thing, it can only happen as the Spirit moves our hearts and changes our ability to tolerate each other’s differences. We must love each other enough to accommodate individual needs and differences.
Comparing the two sides of the coin
There are those on the extrovert side of the coin who will want to be in their assigned homes and shooting hoops or helping them clean house every week. Then there are those on the introvert side of the coin who will breath easier if they know someone is available if needed, and they honestly believe that person will be there for them IF NEEDED, but won’t be breathing down their neck every week. Isn’t this what becoming a Zion people is all about, learning to find unity through our many differences?
I fully agree that one side of the extrovert/introvert coin shouldn’t have complete dominion throughout the Church. But I also understand that the Lord has given us assignments through his Priesthood to watch over each other. If we aren’t willing to at least listen to each other and then communicate how we really feel about how we want to carry out these priesthood assignments then we don’t stand a chance of being able to fulfill our assignments or become a Zion people.
One of my ministering families may need me on a regular basis. Another family or person may feel like they are doing just fine, and don’t really need me to be there all the time. But I, as a priesthood holder won’t feel like I am fulfilling my calling if I am not helped to feel comfortable that IF there is a need the person or family who doesn’t feel like they want me in their home all the time will at least call me. With that simple assurance, and an occasional follow up call, text, or visit (whatever they want) I will feel like I can honestly report I have done what has been asked of me by the Lord.
Note that I may personally want to do more than my family wants me to do. But as long as I am willing to honor the wishes of the person/family I have been asked to minister to then I have done all the Lord expects of me. After all, I must honor their agency, just as the Lord honors mine.
The Lord knows better than we do that it takes all of us working together to return to Him. It is for this very reason we have been commanded to get involved in each other’s lives. But we also have agency that must be respected by all. Even God, Himself won’t violate or impinge on our agency. If I have a person/family who is willing to be honest with me and tell me they don’t want regular visits or checkups then I need to negotiate with them to find a middle ground that satisfies them and my need to fulfill my priesthood responsibility. I might add here that ministering sisters are no different in this regard, as they are on the Lord’s errand when they are assigned to visit others.
One final observation: Does this mean that my ministering brothers or sisters will honor my wishes? No, it does not. Just as we are asking them to bend to our wishes, so we have to concede that they have wishes or views of their own, and they may not currently match with our own. But this doesn’t mean that I should just give up and allow them to impose on me and my family without saying something in a kind and loving way. Remember, the key here is loving communication. Whether we want to come more often or less often, communication spoken in love is always needed.
If you have had experiences with different personality types in your ministering assignments or efforts, we would all appreciate your comments below. You can also share your stories with us in the Facebook group – Latter-day Saint Ministering.
Read part one of this series here.
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Working with different people and personality types is a whole science in and of itself. Once when I was in college majoring in sales and service technology, I took a class called Sales Personalities and Profiles. There were specific tests that each of us as students took to help us each see what our personality type was. Then we were able to see which personality types would be good for us to work with, which would be good for us to socialize with, and which would be good for us to marry, etc.. We were also able to see which characteristics were dominant in ourselves and which were not so dominant. The objective of the class was to help us realize that every person on the earth has a different basic core personality and that there are, according to social scientists, four basic types of personalities. It was an amazingly accurate test. I have taken several personality tests since that time. Each was named differently but basically, the same four personality types surfaced with slight variations in each person. But the tests, oddly enough, though very accurate generally speaking, are not always completely accurate, because people can and do change. Oddly enough, when I work with people one on one, I have the ability to blend in a group and relate to almost everyone in one way or another. Granted there are some people that I do not care to associate or be around at all, period amen. They can just go their way and I will go mine and I will do that gladly and gratefully. Let them go wherever they may want to go and do whatever they want to do, just don’t expect me to go where they go. I have my niche and I know what it is and I don’t need too much help with it, although, I do need some help. There is nothing so aggravating as someone who says, “If you need any help, call me, when I know that it is obvious to them that I do need help and that it is plainly obvious what kind of help it is that I need. It is also pretty stupid for me to expect a ministering brother or sister who is unable to help me in the way that I think that I need help, to expect help from them in that way. What is even more aggravating is that some leaders in the church do not know much of anything about those they lead. That is completely obvious. Once a newly called Elders quorum presidency approached my husband saying that they had prayed about it and received inspiration that he should be called to help make sure that all the chairs were put up for all of our stake conferences and also that all of the snow was removed from the sidewalks around the church. My husband looked at them and simply said: “Well, if I had some help I would.”
He was facing back surgery at the time and how could he possibly say yes. I suggested to my husband that perhaps there was an underlying motive that the Lord had for inspiring them to ask him to do this calling, such as his ability to tell them who else might be able to do the job more effectively. Had they known him a little bit better and known what was going on in his personal life, they may have never approached him, but because they did not know him too well and what was going on, they soon learned how they could best help him. The Lord inspired the calling even though it was not meant for him to do it at the time. If we can realize that there is scientific research to assist us in working with people, but that there is a God in Heaven who made the scientists and knows more than all of us put together, and if we can put God first in our lives and learn to follow His guidance, we will be able to learn how to apply all scientific knowledge as well as all other knowledge as well, to the benefit of ourselves and others. Sometimes going to the person that we have been offended by may only serve to make the problem worse. Sometimes we need to wait and give it some time to work itself out and let the Lord help us to change our own hearts first,or maybe we may need to counsel with another to learn what to do and how to do it. .
Wise words. Thank you Jaynie. I wholeheartedly agree.
Everyone has a job and role they fit well. Serve from a position of strength most of the time to aboid burn out. Ex: I am a voice coach. Most of my service is going to be my calling as a wife, mother then vocal coach because of the one on one, and then event coordinating for inclusion, and then other types of callings and opportunities. The people I am truly going to know the need is expanded by the fields I have chosen to be involved in. I also look for those moments where a mom or a young child or even a college adult man or elderly person truly needs help. Becoming a teacher of any type or coach or professional of really any subject can put us in a position to do a lot of good within reason. How we act in our day to day lives is the strongest testiment and type of ministering I feel like out of any other. That being said find a healthy balance so you aren’t paranoid or always feeling like I failure. There are specific months of the year I close shop and stop peopling entirely minus for emergencies such as suicide prevention, an especially important performance lat minute lesson, or other forms or cries for help. But I allow myself to shut down so I can heal. When I don’t respect my own boundaries and time budget to give to others, I become unbalanced which is particularly bad for anyone… much more so a biplor with adhd and depression! I recommend for “regular” ministering assignments to study for even just 10 minutes a week or month for those who you are not able to reach, rub you the wrong way, who struggle more often than not, or prefer exclusion. I would assume based on my heavy experience as a first place addressor for people and emotions that the majority either have mental health, are having temporary situational or long term ptsd-based needs/something you should strive to be aware of. Ptsd can be from veteran, sexual trauma, abandonment, and even regular parts of life like pregnancy etc all the way to divorce, misplaced trust, and previous coerced/manipulative behaviors. As mentioned above the reasons are endless. However, I highly recommend you pray to Heavenly Father to truly understand your ministering assignments individually (that means if you have a family kids and adults one by one)… etc and be prepared to budget the 10 minutes a week or whatever time budget you have set to act upon promptings, create situations/points of contact that are unique and appreciated/respectful, or just research and shoot a message from time to time. If you cannot check up on someone… maybe their neighbor can. Maybe their school college can. Maybe their family member can. Think outside the box. And if you are not a think outside the box person… counsel with your counselors starting with a spouse or beloved family member or friend that you trust and of course the Lord, reach out to a therapist, etc. If your desire is to truly reach out so you can answer the call of the shepherd that the Lord places on each one of us members of the body of Christ; the Great Shepherd… then you will find a way to serve. Another idea is find that ideas person in your life. They might have just the idea you need to resolve an issue. Find that analytical person in your life. They might be able to help you weigh out deep thoughts. One last thought is to tap into their field of expertise/hobbies. People open up when they feel good about themselves. Find their happy place and go their pace on their terms according to your desires and interest. Push yourself but don’t stretch yourself thin. I know these things will help you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Elder David A. Bednar explains that his wife went to the individuals to whom she was newly assigned as minister, and simply asked: “What does it mean to you that ‘ministering’ will now be ‘higher and holier’?”
Simple, yet profoundly incisive.
(Elder Bednar, Evening with a General Authority, @58:34)