I Yam who I Yam, and that’s all I Yam

Those of you my age know that was one of Popeye the Sailor Man’s main sayings. “I yam who I yam, and that’s all I yam!” We all are born with temperaments, bents, personality types, gifts, and abilities. Patty and I had eight children, and they were all very different from day one. Six and seven were twins, so their differences were even more apparent. There are a lot of different tests available today to tell us what kind of person we are. They are very helpful in understanding ourselves, but I often hear people using their temperament or personality type or even their spiritual gift to excuse irresponsible or lazy living. “I yam who I yam,” implying that I can’t change, or grow or learn skills, because that is just the way “I yam.”

One of the reasons that I was so reluctant to leave the dairy to become a pastor is because I knew what I was like, and it didn’t seem compatible with pastoring people. I was painfully uncomfortable around people I didn’t know, and being in a situation where I had to enter into conversations and make small talk would literally cause me to break out in a sweat. For year’s I justified being a relational idiot as a pastor because “I yam who I yam.” Then I started meeting with Dr. Joe. At one of our lunch encounters, he said, “You are standing before Jesus at the end of your life at the ‘Judgment seat of Christ’ and He asks you how many people you influenced to follow Him, and you say none because You made me shy.” “How do you think that will go over with Jesus?” And then he gave me one of his classic sayings, “Strengthen your strengths, compensate for your non-strengths, and learn and practice skills.” You can learn to play the piano even if you aren’t gifted in music, you can learn how to sell cars for a living even if you are an introvert, and you can learn how to carry on a meaningful conversation with anybody, anywhere though you would rather be fishing by yourself. He suggested that I read the books, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie and “Relational Intelligence” by Steve Saccone. I read both and have read dozens of similar books in the 30 years since that impactful meeting.

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