Being a Loner and a Follower

There are dangers in being an introvert and dangers in being an extrovert. Therefore, rather than see yourself as either one or the other, you should try to live in the tensions of both.

The introvert will tell you that energy for life springs from being alone with his thoughts and true innovation flows from being free of the influence of culture and crowd. And yet it's isolation, with its lack of accountability to others that brought us the world's first violent crime (see Cain and Abel) and its shutting out of shared learnings and insight that ignites the flame for idiotic ideas and dangerous heresy (see Arius and Joseph Smith).

The extrovert will argue that human beings are creatures made for community, that the best of an individual is often discovered when talent and emotion are drawn out of them by others, and that there's no more powerful force than families and friends rallied around a common cause. And yet it is magnitude, with its often arrogant assumption of right because of might that led to the world's first collective attempt at idolatry (see Tower of Babel), and its ability to encourage conformity and squash personal reflection that fostered some of our greatest atrocities (see Parachute Pants).

Yes, there are blessings and curses to be found in both. In fact, it's foolish to pit the loner against the populist and argue which is wiser. The truth is that the world's worst moments are a result of both ends of the spectrum working together. A horrible idea hatches in the vacuum of isolation and is assumed to be authoritative in the credibility of a crowd.

This means that--as usual--the wisest thing is to try and live the tension of both. We must understand and embrace the blessings and burdens of being both a loner and a follower. Which, if you think about it, is not a completely foreign concept to us. We see this tension at play in the wisdom parents often offer their children. We pray for them to have friends and tell them to go out and play with the neighbor, all the while urging them to make their own decisions and never follow their buddies off of a bridge. It's not contradictory. It's just wise.

No matter which way you sway--toward solitude or magnitude, loner or follower--the key as you lead, as you live, as you try to be faithful in whatever forum you're called to is to understand that your personal bent carries with it big blind spots.

When you're alone seek someone else's wisdom. When you're with others do not forsake your own.

BlogMatthew PopovitsComment