As a fellow introvert, the subject of this book really resonated with me. I can often fall subject to “the ruthless hum of dread,” as songwriter Terry Taylor once put it, and I found the insights in this book useful. It’s a great help in helping introverts “renew their minds” and head outward.
Jared Mellinger reminds us that introspection, in itself, is not a bad thing—in fact, it can and should be a part of everyone’s life. Unhealthy introspection, however, can keep us trapped in our heads and overwhelmed by self-criticism. In addition to crippling us outwardly, it also gives us a tendency to judge others as harshly as we judge ourselves. The key to this “relief from the burden of introspection,” then, is remembering our identity in Christ.
Jared Mellinger. Think Again: Relief from the Burden of Introspection. 192p., $17.99, New Growth Press.
As Jared puts it, “We spend so much of our time and energy making negative judgments, condemning ourselves and condemning each other. But when Christ comes, human condemnation gives way to divine commendation, and all those who are in Christ will receive personal affirmation from the King. Therefore, not only is God’s assessment of us more important than all other assessments, it is often far more gracious.” As he more bluntly puts it elsewhere, “We are unworthy, but we are not worthless.”
Thus, the book takes us on a journey “from introspection to Christ-ospection,” addressing related topics such as false guilt, developing a healthier sense of self-reflection, the joy of self-forgetfulness, discovering the beauty outside of us, and ultimately (and most critically, in a practical sense) the need for community. And while it’s easy to focus on negative examples of introspection, there are many positive examples of introspection to be found here. I especially loved the chapter “Grace in the Mirror,” on this count, in its encouragement to not only recognize Christ in others, but to recognize it in ourselves.
I also loved (and on a personal level, have previously resonated with) the calling-out of the example of the psalmist Asaph here—”not your typical, enthusiastic, extroverted, rock-star worship leader[, but] clearly well-acquainted with depression, introspection, and melancholy”—especially in his exposition of Psalm 77:
There is unrest in his soul as he dwells upon his situation and his troubles. He tries to think his way out of his condition, but the more he meditates, the more miserable he becomes….
It’s not so much that we doubt the existence of God as it is that we doubt his goodness—his care for us. Why isn’t God helping me out of this? Doesn’t he see that I’m in over my head? Why is God doing this to me? Doesn’t he care about me? Isn’t he loving and gracious toward me?…
The answer to these questions comes later on: “Because the darkness turns us inward, escaping the darkness requires a change in focus. This is the biblical process for escaping gloomy introspection. We fight doubt by feeding our faith. Christ rescues us by turning our thoughts away from ourselves.”
Framing this book is a suggestion from the nineteenth-century preacher Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “For every look at yourself take ten looks at Christ.” Jared adds, “The antidote to excessive introspection is not to completely forget myself, but to look more to the Lord Jesus Christ, which leads to thinking rightly—and less often—about myself.” In the closing chapter, Jared cites Hebrews 12:1-2—“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”—and ties it back to “the burden of introspection,” inviting us to something better:
“Every weight” certainly includes the weight of excessive introspection. Not every weight is a sin. But every weight is to be thrown aside. If introspection is weighing you down, get rid of it….
To look to Christ as we ought, we must lay aside certain weights. Lay aside the weight of ego, which will only lead to the smugness of a fulfilled pride or the self-pity of an unfulfilled pride. Lay aside the weight of vanity, which will only lead to self-love or self-hatred. Lay aside the weight of false guilt, which will only breed discouragement and rob us of joy. Lay aside the weight of comparison, which will only take our eyes off Christ and the finish line and place them on others. Lay aside the weight of condemnation, which will only slow us down by keeping our focus on our guilt and denying the finished work of Christ for us.
Lay aside every weight, and run.
(Obligatory disclaimer: I was also editor for this book. Darn tootin’ I was. 🙂 And enjoyed every bit of the experience.)