I will define myself as a Christian, not an introvert
Myers-Briggs may say that I’m an INFJ. Gallup may think they know my Top Five Strengths. There are all kinds of ways to categorise ‘me’. But what truly defines me? What goes to the heart of who I am? I’m a Christian. I’m a follower of Jesus, and a new creation. I’m saved by the grace of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus – being conformed to the image of Jesus by God’s gracious work in me.
We can say lots of true things about ourselves, but personality tests or traits will never ultimately define any follower of Jesus. Our identity is found in him. We are Christians first.
I will stop playing the comparison game
Just a few weeks ago, at a market day stall on our university campus, I looked on in wonder as my friend engaged in almost three solid hours of intense evangelistic conversations. He took a few short breaks to stretch his legs and eat something, but otherwise powered on. And he finished with more energy and excitement than when he started.
I had one thirty-minute conversation, and was ready for a nice lie down.
It’s easy to feel envious of my friend. It’s easy to see how I could be ‘more useful’ if I were an extrovert. But comparing myself to others is a slap in the face to God, and the quickest way to miss the ways in which I can serve. (I loved that one-on-one, thirty-minute conversation!)
I will not use my introversion as an excuse to be selfish, but will put myself out for the sake of others
Jesus literally gave his life for my salvation. Even when I’m feeling tired and drained, I can suck it up and spend time talking to someone or making a new friend, for their good. It’s tempting to play the ‘I’m an introvert’ card, but that can sometimes be a convenient excuse to selfishly withdraw and put my needs ahead of someone else’s.
I can’t exactly compare meeting a bunch of strangers to being crucified, but Jesus has left me an example, that I might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21). I should look not only to my own interests, but also to the interests of others, just as Jesus did (Phil 2:4-8).
Remembering the previous resolution, I won’t feel guilty for taking time on my own to recharge
If I actually want to look to the interests of others, loving and serving others well and functioning well in general, ‘down time’ is essential. It’s not always selfish for an introvert like me to take the time to emotionally refresh and recharge.
I will delight in time spent with others – not make them feel bad for sapping my precious emotional energy
Talking about introversion can be helpful, but it can also be dangerous. When I out myself as an introvert, I might (unwittingly) make other people feel bad for spending time with me.
I’ll continue to cherish my times of solitude, but I’ll also cultivate a real delight in spending time with others, and letting them know that I don’t see them as a burden or a chore to be endured. I’ll find ways to let them know that I like being with them. People matter.
I will remember that other people are a blessing from God
God doesn’t save his people then ask them to live the Christian life as lone rangers. He blesses us with one another, bringing us into new relationships within the body of Christ. Though it may not always feel like a blessing – and though we may not need to spend every waking moment with other people – God knows what he’s doing by giving us relationships.
I will not envy the gifts of others, but will thank God for giving diverse gifts to his church, and will lead and love others as the person God has made me
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:4-7)
Thank God that he made those off-the-charts extroverts! Human beings are given diverse gifts to serve God (and each other) in diverse ways. Knowing that God’s Spirit gives gifts to his people is, among other things, a liberating idea. While we need to be aware of our own sinful tendencies, we’re freed from resenting or looking down on others. We’re freed to love and lead the people that God places around us – not trying to be someone else, but trying to be the best version of ourselves. We’re freed to trust that God will enable us to handle the life and ministry that he gives us.
I will remember that I’m not the only introvert in the world
Sometimes, I like to sit quietly and listen to what’s going on in a group. Sometimes, I prefer time on my own (or with one or two people I know well) to time with lots of strangers. It’s not selfish. It doesn’t mean I’m feeling terribly sad. It’s just the way I’m wired.
Strange, then, that I can look at other people and forget that they might be introverts. ‘Why doesn’t she ever say anything in Bible study?’ ‘Why did he leave the church picnic so early?’ ‘Do you think she’s okay?’ ‘I wish he wouldn’t be so selfish all the time!’
Apparently something like one third of people are introverts. Maybe I know one or two of them.
I will help my extroverted friends to see past the stereotypes about introverts
Generalisations are always bad. And there are plenty of generalisations around when it comes to introverts and extroverts.
Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy. It doesn’t mean you don’t like people. It doesn’t mean you can’t lead others. It doesn’t mean we’re fragile, or weak, or afflicted with some terrible condition. It really just means we have a preference for less stimulating environments, and we tend to be energised by time alone, rather than by time with people.
I will ensure that I don’t portray extroverts as shallow because they’re extroverts
Maybe I’m imagining it, but almost all the writing on this subject seems to be done by introverts. It’s almost become ‘our’ domain. We’re the complicated ones, the ones that everyone else must work hard to understand.
And sometimes, introverts can portray themselves as the intelligent, emotionally connected ones who really get it – sensitive, wise souls in touch with a deeper level of reality. Does this quietly portray extroverts as being a bit shallow? (I don’t know, maybe extroverts are too busy talking to other people and being all extroverted to care.)
Some of my best friends are extroverts. And some of them – most of them, actually – are profoundly thoughtful, considerate, emotionally aware people. We introverts should be careful that we don’t claim the corner on deep thought.