I’m an Introvert and That’s OK (Or At Least I’m By Myself Considering Whether it’s OK)
January 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
“Confessions of an Introvert” was my first choice for a title, but that was far too popular. So I stretched this one out a bit.
I love my wife, my family, my friends and neighbors. But sometimes I catch myself in a little daydream, and in it, there is just me in a small apartment somewhere, reading, drawing, chilling. I have absolutely no thought of leaving the life I have now and the wonderful people in it, but I wonder if other people who fall into the category of introvert at times want to withdraw from the world for a while.
Embracing my introversion is a pretty recent thing, maybe because at least since high school I’ve always felt I was a little bit introvert and a little bit extrovert. I know that if I ever did recoil to a fortress of solitude I would miss the people in my life and return in no time. But my need to recharge and energize by myself has pushed itself to the surface repeatedly. So while I do love good company as much as life itself, I work better, study better, learn better, create better, think better, exercise better, regroup better when I have those key times away from the group.
When an introvert is invited to a movie, our first question will be, “What’s the movie?” The extrovert’s first question will be, “Who else is going?” That’s because extroverts get their energy mainly from other people, whereas introverts energize by themselves. Introverts are not necessarily shy. I love people and need to be with them. But home base is a quiet place for me. The extroverts I know seem to be content with constant companionship and a table encircled with friends and family. I’m at the table too, just rarely the last to leave the party.
Is one way to live, introverted or extroverted, better than the other? I think of opportunities I have passed on because of my lean toward introversion: Speaking among groups at church or work, striking up conversations, introducing myself, calling someone on the phone, team sports. I have pushed myself in these areas and done them all anyway, but I have envied people who seem to enjoy these interactions more naturally. It seems they have an easier time doing some of the things I want to do, like asking smart questions, leading an evangelism encounter, and being able to add to a good conversation. Isn’t loving your neighbor easier if you’re outgoing, rather than finding yourself wanting to get away from them sometimes?
Thankfully, the charge to love God and neighbor can be done in a myriad of ways, and God is friendly to both personality types. The way we recognize our need for Jesus can be a personal and inward examination of our own hearts, or an epiphany that comes from talking with others. His Spirit is not limited. God reveals His word to us through a personal quiet time over our Bible, or a lively Scripture discussion with friends. God gives us a church where we can fellowship at our own pace and serve each other behind the scenes or in the middle of the scene. I also think that God gives us people to engage that are well suited for how we like to engage. Loving our neighbor is not optional, but we can do it through lengthy face to face encounters, or shorter exchanges, or making the best use of a blog, social media, and other kinds of written correspondence.
Extremes are rare. I don’t know many introverts who spend all their time hiding from personal interaction, or many extroverts who never retreat for a quiet time periodically. We are wired to refuel and refocus differently, and I think God lets us be that way.
Before you conclude that your need to be with people or your need to be alone is a fault you must deal with the live a normal Christian life, think about the social situations that you are comfortable with. How can those situations be maximally used to encourage others, to be compassionate to others, or to tell others about Christ? Expect to be called out of your comfort zone once in while to reach out to someone. But I don’t think we are called to become the opposite of who we are in order to connect with people where they are.
It might be interesting to hear from others. Do you think your being an introvert or an extrovert has major disadvantages in life? How have you overcome them?