Introverted Christian (in an Extroverted world)

Introverted "Amelie" as a child sees life and wonder through her imagination.

From one of my favorite, if peculiar, movies, “Amelie,” a young introverted woman who takes a bold step.

 

Are You An Introvert?

Introverted? If you’re even wondering, then, at least to some degree, you probably are!

There are many wonderful avenues we could take from here, so I’ll do my best to be brief (if you want more, see “additional reading” list after the sign up, below). I’ve been researching the introvert/extrovert conversation, and just want to offer a bit of encouragement if you tend to be on the more introverted side. Sometimes, very well-meaning ministers rev us up to be just like our favorite preacher or evangelist or whatever, and we think that our highest and best should look like they look.

Wherever needed, I hope to help set anyone free who denies themselves the privilege of enjoying their natural temperament, and discovering the supernatural, intimate life they were born for. It’s right there in your DNA! If you’ve been needing permission to just BE yourself (rather than doubt or feel bad about your natural inclinations), here you go, permission on a platter.

 

Is Introversion a Sin?

Most people would scream, “NO!” Yet, too often, introverts are perceived or even treated as if they’re missing something. Let me preamble this by saying that John Crowder’s Mystical Union (click here to check it out) is foundational for me. There’s one sentence in it, though, that may reflect a tad bit of misunderstanding: “The old critical, introverted you is dead.”

I am definitely still introverted, and still very much alive and in love with Life, our sweet Lover.

If you’re introverted, in the true sense of the word, or occasionally have introverted tendencies, that is NOT a condition of the fall or a mental illness. It’s sometimes used interchangeably with socially anxious or even depressed, but it shouldn’t be.

Introversion is a temperament apparently shared by 20%-25% of the human race, and it’s not defined solely by outward behaviors, but observable brain patterns. Studies have shown that where the Extrovert’s primary thinking/communication pathway is through short term memory, the Introvert’s is through long term. Now while I wouldn’t base my life and faith on those studies, the implications of this information are many and can be helpful. As much as it is true, it gives us a glimpse of why introverts don’t always respond as quickly as we, or others, think we should. Processing through long term memory physiologically requires more ENERGY. We observe, consider, and like to process an experience more deeply before necessarily having anything to say about it. For this reason, an introvert can only take so much stimulation before we need to rest and recharge in that wonderful free space of being alone with God.

And that is the most distinguishing characteristic of an Introvert: we recharge in quiet and in stillness, usually alone or with someone we know intimately. Anna the Prophetess, who prayed in the temple day and night, was probably introverted. Extroverts primarily energize by interacting and receiving positive feedback from companionship, conversation and activity; Introverts enjoy people and love great conversation as much as anyone, but will tend to be drained from much interaction.

And there are people on the extremes and everywhere in between.

Christ Finished It: You’re Safe!

This was important for me in understanding the difference between the old, suicidal, overly self-critical and self-examining girl, and the new perfectly found, occasionally outgoing but mostly thinking-and-wondering-creation. It’s not the same as being isolated from community. I LOVE my time with friends, family, church, etc., but a lot less than my husband does, as an example. Since I know that my behavior has no effect on God’s presence in my life–

I will NEVER leave you or forsake you,

or his love poured out in my heart–

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

I’m free to risk displeasing others for the sake of really discovering who I am, what makes me tick, how God lives through me. For me, that meant saying “no” to some things that were good and seemed right to do. Ever heard the saying, good is the enemy of great?

Deep Calls Unto Deep

If you’re an Introvert, you’re likely to be very creative, and a deep thinker. Your face doesn’t always wear what’s in your heart, and you’re learning to be more communicative. What God shares with you in intimate, quiet places may be so unique that you rarely meet others hearing the same things, and that is what you’re made for! Please don’t think there is anything wrong with you. God may have given you a special grace for more extroverted ministry, but if not; e.g. if going out and talking to people all the time is exhausting and becomes a work instead of a delight, why should you force it? Do it when you’re truly energized for it, and don’t beat yourself up when you’re not.

What if Holy Spirit was specifically not giving you grace for certain activities, so that you would direct your creativity elsewhere? But the sweet good news Gospel of Grace is that you don’t have to force yourself under some pretense of doing what is “right” in order to prove that you are right. That’s called righteousness by works, not grace. And believing that is the Faith. Trust God to be there with you and guide you, revealing things about your identity, sometimes by showing you what you hate, but even more through what you love.

It’s one thing to be questioning yourself, isolating out of fear, or being sad all the time. Those are not fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s entirely another to enjoy silence, hours of prayer, getting GEEKED off one verse for five hours, or staring at a duck pond for an afternoon. Whatever. Get what you need, or you probably will feel depressed!

 

 

Did that resonate with you? Do you have lingering questions about the introverted temperament? Have you sometimes felt a little pushed or uncomfortable keeping up in the church community? Share your thoughts!

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Additional Reading

The Introvert Advantage by  Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D

Relevant Magazine: “What Introverts Wish the Church Understood About Them”

The Introvert Personality (article)

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron

 

  6 comments for “Introverted Christian (in an Extroverted world)

  1. karen ford
    December 11, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Esse, what a yummy article.. i savored every word!! i believe you have doe an excellent “job” of describing some of the fairly unknown factors in discovering the fine differences between introvert and extrovert… Thank you so much for writing this, sweet girl!!

    • karen ford
      December 11, 2015 at 3:26 am

      i need to correct my selling doe should be done… there may be other mistakes.. i could not read it fast enough before i was sent here.. haha!

      • December 11, 2015 at 11:20 am

        Hahaha I especially love your selling corrections. Your spelling is a little funny though! BAHAHAHAHA giggles giggles giggles

    • December 11, 2015 at 11:21 am

      So glad it blessed you!! The key that Holy Spirit reminds me always is PERMISSION. Permission to be free. Permission to just be. Nuthin’ like “that blessed assurance,” eh?

  2. erin
    December 10, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you for this!!! I am definitely an introvert. I can talk to people but sometimes it’s hard. I’ve been thinking something is wrong because I can’t visit w people too long. Anyway thank you I love your posts!

    • December 10, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      Isn’t it so sweet to know you’re all good! I pray you have more and more FUN just being you. <3 There's a book you might like. It's called "The Introvert Advantage." You can preview it HERE.

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