23 February 2010


In the last year, we have had a church-wide emphasis that is designed for us to know ourselves and one another better. The catalyst is the book "Living Your Strengths" and the Clifton strengths assessment and development tool that is linked to it. This book was created by the faith-based portion of the Gallup organization, and as I understand it, there are other studies that range beyond the scope of the faith-based that are now capitalizing on its development.

The rundown: The basic premise is that there are 34 basic areas of individual development that are inherent to all humans, in varying degrees, regardless of cultural development or bias, and that if the the top 5 areas of talent are identified, it would more accurately help individuals understand themselves and each other. (VERY basic.) If these signature themes, as they're called, are accurately identified and encouraged, the organizations of which these individuals are members could tailor themselves to their populations and be more effective.

So, our church has been going through the process of having everyone who cares to participate tested, and coached, so that, as a community of believers doing life together, we can exist more fully as the body of Christ-- living and acting as one cohesive unit, instead of many little unknown quantities.

To be honest, when I took my assessment, I wasn't 100% convinced that my results were accurate, but as they've grown on me, I've really embraced the fact of the matter. I am now in a class (yay) to discuss and be coached in a group setting. Tonight was the first class, and I'd forgotten how invigorating it was to be in an active learning environment. But, I'm getting ahead of myself, here...

OK. Here are my top five:

1) Input
2) Learner
3) Intellection (which my Input and Learner tell me is not an actual word)
4) Maximizer
5) Individualization

And, just for the record, yes, it does annoy me that the 34 signature themes are not consistently all the same part of speech, but I didn't make them up.

Basically, these five things tell you a LOT about who I am, why I function the way I do, and what I value in life, should you choose to acknowledge and understand them, and subsequently, me. Here's what they mean, very basically: Input means that I collect things. I collect information, quotations, words, and physical things. I catalog the things that I collect, either physically or mentally. Learner means that I find the learning process to be fascinating and enjoyable. I want to learn everything I can. I enjoy going from ignorance to competence. Intellection means that I have a "mental hum" that is interminable. My mind is always working. Intellectual stimulation, the flexing of my mental muscles, is just part of who I am, and I thrive on it. Maximizer means that I take something that's great and turn it into stupendous. It has to be the VERY BEST it can be. Good enough is simply not good enough. Individualization means that I relate to each person according to who they are. I interact individually, and I tailor my interactions to the ability or personality of the person with whom I'm interacting.

So, all of these things work together in my every thought, breath, motion, action, relationship, etc. That is WHO I am, not just something about me. That is how I live, move, and have my being. I am hard-wired to function extremely highly, without exhaustion in those 5 things. I am most productive, most valuable, most tireless, when I live there, and when I get out of those 5 things, I get run-down and defeated.

As an example, take my relationships. In relating to people, I deal with them through my Individualization. I will relate differently to my friend Pamela than I do to my daddy, and differently to him than I relate to my mother. I tailor each relationship to the most effective communication and relation with each. (Side bar: This is why I speak all 5 love languages fluently, though I don't receive them as equally.) My Individualization relates to each individual, but it is my Input, Learner, and Intellection that drive my relatability. I take in everything I can. I observe people, learn things, find things fascinating... I'm a big picture person. I want to know how everything works and how this cog fits into the bigger machine, not just how to spin the cog. So I learn everything I can, and that applies to the people about whom I care, and the things that they care about. Because of my Maximizer, I can't stop at just being able to relate to someone. I want to relate to them and understand them and REALLY know them. Good enough simply isn't good enough, remember? So I take all of my catalogs of knowledge from my Input, that I've Learned, and I use my Intellection to process them and Maximize how to Individually relate. Got it? That's me and my relationship bent, in a nutshell.

Well, knowing these things made it much clearer to me (remember the Input, Learner, Intellection-- I learned all about the whole Strengths thing, and what that meant for me, and all 34 of the strengths so I could relate better to others) how I actually function, and the more I think about that (Intellection-- my mental hum), the more I apply it to myself, the more I understand why I function the way I do.

In younger years, I had a tendency to find relationships unsatisfying. I wanted to know all about this person, and I wanted to tell him/her all about me, but he/she didn't want to know about me like I wanted to know about him/her. Frustration. It feels so one-sided. In recent years, I've grown up enough to be able to listen to my friends without expecting them to listen to me in the same way. I've learned to not divulge who I am, and answer concisely when people ask polite questions. The reality is, the VAST majority of humanity simply doesn't want to know. That may be why I find comfort in having my own blog. It is an outlet for me to make myself known without boring the people I love. hahahaha

I desire strongly to be known deeply, for who I truly am. Since others in my life don't have the raging desire to know me that way, I content myself with knowing them as best I can. There IS great fulfillment in this for me. It is wonderfully contenting to know WHY my brain works that way, and to be able to absorb all the tiniest little details about someone without having to spew all of my details at her. It is beautiful to have an intimacy that isn't spoiled by expecting the other person to be who I am or to function the way I function, and I'm much happier, on the whole, with my Individualization, because I know that my friends and family members truly love me. Really. They don't have to KNOW me, know all ABOUT me, know every thought I think as it passes through my head, to love me. They just love me. Now, how they function that way is beyond me, but I have that all catalogued away so I can relate to them, regardless of whether I think they're nuts for not having my top 5 the way I have them...

I love the idea of being known, and I've loved it for so long that one of my favorite movies, inexplicably, is "
The Mirror Has Two Faces" with Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges. She talks about it early in the film-- the idea of someone loving her enough to know the little things about her, how she takes her coffee, for instance.. One of the defining instances in the movie is when she sees him know her like that, as he answers the waiter's question about her preferences, without consulting her. No she doesn't care for any pepper. When you get a chance, could you bring a little side dish of extra dressing for her salad? She'd like that. And the heart inside me sighs a little sigh of desire. Yeah. I'm pathetic like that.

I suppose that's why this quote stuck out to me so much that I underlined it in 3 colors in my copy of
The Shack (by William P Young). "So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing." (pg. 155) Love is just the skin of knowing. I love that. I love that because I love knowing. I love learning and understanding better. I love the idea that my love for those that I hold dearest is evident in my strengths-- the knowing. I love it that God knows me that way, and that He loves me in all the abundant wealth of His knowledge of me, not in the little bit of my knowledge.. I also love it that because I understand WHO I am and how I function, that I don't have to expect anyone else to know me the way I want to know them, and that THAT doesn't DECREASE how much they love me, either.

But, I still want to be known.

Much love.

P.S. Apparently, there is a newer version of the assessment out now that you can purchase separate from the book. If you'd like to complete StrengthsFinder 2.0, you can go
here to have your strengths assessed and identified.

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