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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Introverts Serving God: Part I

For the next few weeks, I want to try an experiment on my blog. Each Sunday, I’d like to post a little about the struggle of being an introvert and trying to serve God. These posts, unlike my blog in general will not be directly writing related, though they will certainly touch on the life of introverts who write.

This subject has been much on my mind for the last several months, and now especially, as last week I began a small group study of Experiencing God.

But let me lay some foundation here. First, I have observed that there are varying levels of introversion. Some are only mildly so, some are greatly so. What I find is that I seem to be more introverted then most introverts I know and it shows up in specific ways. To view it visually in your mind, if 1 was extremely introverted and 10 was mildly introverted, I’d rate myself about a 2-3.

How does that play out in my day to day life?

1. I go to work (in a work setting that is the worst possible environment for an introvert) and then go home to my cave and hide from the world (okay, well my dog is there, but NO ONE else!).
2. My extracurricular outings are limited to: grocery shopping, Wednesday and Sunday Church services, and once a month I have a writer’s group that meets locally. I hobnob with people only as much as I have to to get by. No parties, no other large people gatherings (I’m even uncomfortable in large family gatherings). That’s the same reason I rarely go to concerts and sports events – I’d like those things a lot more if there weren’t a bunch of people there. 8-).
3. It means I’m too shy to talk to people. I have naturally learned to project a “please don’t talk to me” persona which comes over me subconsciously in public places, like waiting at the bus stop, waiting in line, etc.
4. I’m lousy at small talk. And truth be told, since I limit my interactions with people to what is strictly necessary, small talk seems frivolous to my way of thinking.

How does it create misunderstanding?

1. People think I need to be “cured” of my introversion. I’m thrilled to be an introvert. If I could be Grizzly Adams living in a cabin by myself up in the high country, away from people, I would. The only bad part about being introverted is that most people can’t understand or misjudge quiet, introverted people. It’s just a sad fact of life.
2. It means I am frequently misunderstood. Why am I not as enthusiastic about pot lucks as my church family or my co-workers? Because to them, it’s FUN! Not to me. To me it’s a social ordeal to get through.
3. The other big misunderstanding is that people don’t think I care about them. That could not be further from the truth. I dread the meet and greet time on Sunday mornings. Sure, I smile and shake a few hands. But I mean a few. I don’t go running all over the church sanctuary trying to hug and shake hands with everybody there before the musical interlude runs out. But I deeply care about my church family and others. I just don’t feel the need to be verbose and effusive about it.
4. But the big misunderstanding is the one I’m struggling with most. God made me. He made me who I am. I did not suddenly become introverted. I have been this way from the beginning. Yet it seems like ministry opportunities are always for extroverts.

And that brings me to the specific topic I want to talk about next week – which is how DO I serve God as an introvert? In Experiencing God, we are told we need to find out where God is working and join Him. We have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone.

But in practical application, does that mean I have to stop being an introvert? To constantly be around people? I can’t think of a more miserable existence, nor one that causes me more conflict in my spiritual life.

But for now, if you are reading this blog, I’d like to know – do you consider yourself an introvert? How has that affected your service to God?


Patricia Weber said...

An insightful post. I'm am INTJ. I think God made us introverts to use our strengths: some examles, we're good at listening to others before we even start talking about ourselves; while we don't have hundreds of friends the friendships we have are deep and long lasting, we like planning so we can use this to navigate through a day of a lot of extroverting (like Sundays at church).

The bottom line is that God made us who we are and with a preference toward introversion we want to focus more on our strengths and put them into action.

Like your insightful post, if a person tends toward introversion, they want to think through their strengths and know that things are perfect as they are.

Patricia Weber
Blogging Business Sales Ideas for Introverts, Shy and Reluctant

B.K. Jackson said...

A fellow INTJ! Cool!

That sounds like a key in your comment - thinking through our strengths. Something I haven't really taken time to do. But there's no time like the present!

Patti Shene said...

Hi Brenda. Enjoyed your post. I suppose if you asked my husband and kids, they wouldn't say I'm an introvert since I do love to talk! LOL! However, I do feel self-conscious in social situations. Like you, I'd be just as happy to avoid the "large crowd gatherings", even if it is family. I enjoy socializing to a point, but my alone time is extremely important to me.

The involvement in church pot lucks and the like is difficult for me because I am no cook, so I'm always racking my brain to try and come up with something to bring that doesn't make me look cheap or completely incompetent in the domestic world.

I'll be interested to read your future posts and see what your viewpoint is on ways to serve God when you are not a social butterfly, as I definitely am not.

B.K. Jackson said...

LOL! But I *AM* completely incompetent in the domestic world. But that's a theme for another post. 8-)

Lisa said...

I am an exceptionally introverted ISFJ (LOVE myers briggs). People are often shocked to discover this about me, because ironically, I'm also excessively outgoing. My love for Christ and my love for people compel me to willingly put myself in intense, deep, or awkward social situations on a regular basis. It's not that I'm uncomfortable DURING the situation, but afterward, I feel absolutely exhausted. It's interesting to me that people equate introvert with shy, and extrovert with outgoing, because that's not actually the definition. An introvert is one who gains energy from being alone, and an extrovert is one who gains energy from people. My friend Brigitte is a "shy extrovert"... sort of the opposite of me, an outgoing introvert :) It's hard for me to understand why God made me this way, so I think it's beautiful and encouraging that you love who God has made you to be! Keep living in the truth that you are his masterpiece. Thanks for sharing.

Cathee said...

God made us the way we are, introverted and extraverted but also wants us to get out of our confort zones. What's weird is thaq Iknow some teachers who make you look like the world's biggest extravert and amazed at how they get up and teach a whole room of kids everyday.
Extraverts probably have more problems - can be too loud and obnoxious, are often told we interrupt, talk too fast or don't like our humor at strange times. Add ADHD to the mix, and you get a real doozy. :)

Cathee said...

I like what Lisa and Patti said. I think you're also an outgoing introvert when you're one on one with people. I'm an ENFP but also can feel very awkward in social situations - I think it's mainly insecurity. Myers Briggs is intersting, it's scary how accurate the description of our types are.
And yes I realize I'm commenting on a post from over a year and a half ago. lol