I receive lots of questions through the Ask Me Anything feature and like to answer them from time to time. Trinity from Houston recently wrote in and she wanted me to talk a little bit about introversion and about being a Christian introvert. So here we go:
I get lots of questions in through the Ask Me Anything feature and I like to answer them from time to time. Trinity from Houston recently wrote in and she wanted me to talk a little bit about introversion, about being an introvert. So let’s try that.
Are you an introvert or extrovert, and what does that mean?
Yes, I’m definitely an introvert. You know introversion and extroversion aren’t biblical categories, they are helpful terms though in terms of expressing people who are more outgoing or people who are more withdrawn. I guess you could say, people who recharge by being alone, would be introverts. They’re drained by being with people, where extroverts tend to be drained by being alone and need to be with people in order to recharge. So that’s probably a useful way of breaking down the two sides. Most people are somewhere on the scale between them, there are people right in the middle, but most of us lean one way or the other a little bit more. I’d say I’m pretty significantly introverted. My safe space or my happy place is usually being alone with a book or something like that. A quiet person. I can feel even awkward in social situations or in big crowds, that kind of thing. So yes, definitely introverted.
You once said that “introversion is what I am not who I am.” Could you explain that?
Yes, I think as human beings, we’re always searching around for identity. We’re always trying to land on different things, saying this defines me. And, I want to say that introversion is what I am. I mean, it describes who I am. I believe God has made me introverted. It’s not sinful to be introverted. But it doesn’t define me. It’s not all that I am. And what I really meant to say by that is, I can not use my introversion as an excuse for disobedience. If there are things God calls me to. Say God calls me to speak the Gospel, and I know he does, right. That’s very clear in the great commission. I need to go and preach the Gospel to all people. I can not allow my introversion to be an excuse that keeps me from doing that. It doesn’t define me in such a way that I can say, I don’t have to evangelize people, I’m an introvert. I don’t have to speak to that person, I’m an introvert. So, very clearly, I want to say, it doesn’t define me. It is part of who I am, but not in that sense. I think that’s a very, very important distinction for us to make.
As Christians, we’re called to ‘deny ourselves’ – what does that look like for an introvert?
Okay, again, so self-denial is saying, this makes me comfortable, yet I know that God calls me to this. And let’s just turn it around, as extroverts, you have to deny yourself too, right. You might always want to be in a crowd, but the Bible calls you sometimes to silence, or to praying, to meditation, to those things. So, it’s not just introverts who struggle with this. The Bible calls me to self-denial. That might be on Sunday going up to somebody in church and greeting that person. That can be very, very difficult for me. But God calls me to love people, to reach out to them, and so I’m going to do that. That might be sitting in a taxi somewhere and I’d rather just stay quiet but yet I really think I’ve got an opportunity here to speak truth to that person, to preach the Gospel to that person. And so I’m going to deny myself comfort and I’ll reach out to that person and tell them about Jesus, or at least initiate a conversation. As parents, it can be having conversations with our children when we’d much rather be reading a book or doing something quiet. As spouses, reaching out and having a deep conversation with our spouse when that can actually be hard. So there’s a hundred different ways that as introverts we just need to say, no, this is something I want to do out of comfort, yet I believe God’s calling me to something uncomfortable, so I will do that in order to honor God and serve another person.
You’re a public speaker and an introvert, how does that work?
Yes, when I first was invited to do public speaking, I found it utterly terrifying to stand in front of a crowd. There were a couple of times I had to call Aileen and actually have her talk me out of my hotel room or out of the room I was staying in so I could go and stand in front of a group of people. Honestly, what I had to do was just leave it before the Lord and say, I believe you’ve given me this opportunity, I believe I have the opportunity here to serve other people, so I’m going to. So I’ll deny myself the comfort of staying in my room or whatever it is. I’m going to go and serve you and trust that you’ll bless me through it. You know what I find is interesting though, I find it easier to speak in front of a crowd of 500 or 5000 people than a crowd of 5 people. It’s actually, in a big crowd, it’s actually easier than in a small group of people, because it’s never really awkward when you’re on a stage in front of many people, you’re sort of in control of the room, everybody’s looking at you, you can just do your thing. It’s much harder, casual conversation, social situations, that’s where I think most introverts really run into introversion based fear. So for me, it’s much more those smaller situations, but even then, I have to serve people. I get the opportunity to love people. I get the opportunity to exercise self-denial and so, to the best of my ability, I just do.
Why is it easy for some people to come out of their shell and so hard for others?
I don’t know that we gain a lot by comparing ourselves to other people, to be honest. I think it’s better just to ask, what is God calling me to? What does God desire of his people? What does God demand of his people, and how can I do those things? Well like anything else, the longer we go before we obey, the harder it is to obey. And so, if you really feel that God’s challenging you here, that I’m not just introverted, I’m withdrawn. I’m not just introverted in my personality, I’m using that as an excuse to avoid people, or not to express love to people. Allow yourself to be convicted, and believe that’s the Holy Spirit convicting you and then just chose to do something about it. Maybe that is just greeting one person on Sunday. Set a goal; I’m going to meet somebody new every Sunday, I’ll just march up. You know what; you’ll have some awkward situations. Who really cares? You’re doing the right thing, you’re honoring God. What’s a little awkwardness or a stilted conversation compared to the joy of meeting somebody created in the image of God? Somebody that God has set his love upon. Meeting that person, welcoming that person. You probably won’t ever become an extrovert and that’s okay. It probably won’t ever be easier, or even energizing for you to be in that situation. I don’t think God’s calling you to change your personality. He does for some people. I think God’s calling you to obedience. So, just ask, how can I obey God? What obedience is he calling me to today, this week, next Sunday? Set yourself some goals, and just see what the Lord does.