A Sensitive Soul

Anyone who’s ever tried to keep an orchid alive has quickly learned that this plant is a temperamental one. I don’t think mine survived its first month. (I have since discovered that I can apparently only handle the little plastic greeneries that look real. Which is cool.) But if you can manage the perfect balance of soil, light, water, and temperature, you’ll be rewarded with an array of gorgeous tropical blooms.

Despite my utter lack of a green thumb, I’m very much like an orchid. In my reading exploits last year, I ran across Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person.* I took the fun online diagnostic test and found that I I am indeed an HSP (and very much so). The book clued me in about what I had supposed were just my idiosyncrasies—things like perfectionism, poor performance under scrutiny, never being able to stay in Bath and Body Works very long, tuning in to others’ emotions and needs, loathing conflict, and instinctively reading situations. I now had a tribe! And every one of the countless times I’ve heard, “Kassie, you’re too sensitive!” now made sense. I’m actually not too sensitive: I’m just more sensitive than the majority. One way isn’t right, and the other isn’t wrong. I have brown hair, green eyes, and a highly sensitive personality. That’s apparently what the Lord, in His wisdom, power, and goodness, intended for me.

Highly sensitive people have a dual wiring situation. God created me with this ability to think and feel deeply because for whatever reason, He thought the world needed it. (Heightened listening skills, compassion, innovation, and attention to detail have come in really handy as I’ve entered the realm of ministry.) But that world is also fallen, so my wiring has gone slightly haywire, leading to my being critical, easily offended/stressed/pained, fearful, quickly spent emotionally, and driven by impossible standards. Just as I am called to embrace the fullness of this gift, I am also meant to war against my flesh and put the more sinful tendencies to death at Christ’s feet. (This is incidentally a very safe burial ground. The more I learn, the more I think Jesus is an HSP, though He has a perfect rein on the fallen bits of that. He grieves over Jerusalem, He goes off by Himself to pray and recharge, He knows what others think, and He creatively connects with humanity at the deepest level.)

I’ve been on a journey of learning about who God made me to be and intentionally accepting that person. Not because I’m a precious millennial snowflake who needs affirmation, but because as long as I refuse to support His choices in my creation, I’m wallowing in pride and unbelief and not being useful to the kingdom.

Step 1: accept who He made me. Step 2: surrender fully. Step 3: unleash His power by letting Him live through me. There you go: three steps to change the world. Now you try.

The kingdom needs the creativity, excellence, passion, intuition, foresight, vigilance, and conscientiousness that HSPs provide, and it needs every single attribute unique to you, no matter your background or personality. Courage is required to discover who you are and to offer that wholly up to the Lord as a living sacrifice. But this is our spiritual worship. And He calls it holy and acceptable.

*To my friends who like to read: A few things about this book. First, it was a huge relief to learn that I’m not absolutely nuts in my sensitivity. The content is groundbreaking, thorough, and informative (and I have yet to find a book about HSPs that doesn’t rely heavily on Aron’s research). She even includes helps for medical professionals, teachers, and employers who deal with HSPs. With that said, she’s very secular and a little crazy at the end of each chapter when it comes to working with what you have learned (e.g., pretending you’re a baby, having conversations with an aspect of yourself, and trying to tap in to the unconscious). If you can be willing to overlook these bizarre activities, you’re in for quite an enlightening read. I’m looking forward to also checking out Introverts in the Church.

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