Sunday, February 9, 2014

Confessions of a Self-Professed Introvert

Study of a Boy, by Thomas Sword Good

(And, yes, others will profess I am an introvert, too.)

After all, introversion is rather obvious. And common. In fact, the number of introverted memes and articles and hilarious cartoons spreading themselves all over my feed(s) have recently taken me quite by surprise. I wonder what has prompted such a tremendous outpouring of introversion mania? Lest you my fellow introverts begin to turn tail and run, rest assured that I did not login to bash our fellow brethren. Still, I am not here to defend us, either. Perhaps one would call what I am about to do "taking (parts of) introversion captive to Christ." Deal?

First off, though, is our usual definition of terms. What is an introvert?
Here are a few results from my five seconds of research:

1. A shy person
2. Turning inward (etymology for you)
3. Someone concerned primarily with his own thoughts and feelings
4. Someone who expends energy to, rather than gets energy from, other people. An introvert gathers energy, instead, from private reflection.

Now, that is what "they" ("the experts") say. Because "the experts" hardly ever know what exactly it is they are talking about, a few qualifications are in order. For one, an introvert is not necessarily shy. There are a lot of bold introverts and a lot of scared extraverts out there. Believe me, I have met them. And so probably have you. For two, extraverts can reflect and think, too. No excuses, no occasion for pride. You are human = you can reflect. For three, introverts are not necessarily quiet. For four, introverts really are capable of genuinely enjoying and loving people. We just like to make the point that 1) to enjoy someone is not to be constantly texting, hugging, talking, kissing, laughing, playing, fawning (or any other gerund you can imagine) them, and 2) to enjoy someone is not to enjoy everyone all at once all the time.

A Girl Reading, by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot

That said, are these traits inherently good? Bad? Ugly? Are extraverts on the side of God or vice versa? These are the questions I shall herein address today. ~ Please remember, I am not infallible and  any question I pose you ought to answer for yourself with the Bible and Biblical wisdom. Disclaimer over. ~

I think what should be stated clearly at the outset is that neither introversion nor extraversion is per se sinful or godly. As with anything pertaining to natural temperament, each one of us has different strengths and weakness which all need to be brought before the feet of Jesus to be ironed out, stain-removed, made white as snow, sanctified. Sometimes certain character traits need done away with altogether; others might need treble reinforcing. Thus with introversion and extraversion: one does not lie higher on the piety scale than the other; both must go to Christ to seek His heart and will on the subject. Indeed, one Christian once told me that, as he drew nearer to God, he slowly changed into a more people-tended person, whereas another Christian told me that his growth in Christ had caused him to become more thoughtful and private and reflective. No, being one or the other is not going to get you any closer to Christ. Only the journey to His Spirit will do that. And that means that you and I will have to take a good, cold, hard look at what we do and why we do it regarding introversion and extraversion and root out what is alien to Christ while watering and grafting in that which is near to the heart of God.

For example, here are a few personal realities which I think most people would attribute to my "introversion":

~ I come home tired after being with people, even people whom I love to be with
~ I enjoy being alone, whether I am busy or not
~ My preference most certainly does not wend towards small talk, or any talk that does not get to an important point, for that matter ("important", admittedly, being a Jenn-arbitrary standard)
~ I enjoy "looking on" rather "being in"
~ I do sit on my bed and cry after being with people "too much" (again, another Jenn-arbitrary standard)
~ My preference is to have a small group of close friends rather than a vast amount of "buddies"
~ Along the same lines, I would rather have one long and deep conversation than engage in six short and chatty ones
~ I get a kick (whatever that means) out of thinking about the why's and when's and how's and what's of my actions, and those of others (I mean, have you read my blog lately?)
~ Articulating is a conscious, tasking process for me, thus I write more easily than I speak
~ Books (not Reindeer) are better than people...I These were confessions, right?
~ And people are scary (better put, Jenn fears people. And definitely a confession.)

Yes, confessions. That is the Jenn version of introversion. See how not everything is bad, not everything is good, much needs to be cut out, some needs to be improved upon and Christ-saturated? So it goes for anything.

A Man Reading, by Thomas Sword Good

What I want to hone in on in this episode is the relationship with people that intro/extraversion involves. Most places you look will say that introverts are drained of energy when with people. The question for a Christian, for me, is why? Why do I get tired out when with people? This is where I know that I at least need to bring "introversion" to my Master.

I know that on many occasions the reason for my post-polyhomosapien exhaustion rests in my fear of people. Now, am I really scared of people? Do I think they turn into green-eyed monsters with fangs who lurk around at night? Of course not. People drain me because I feel as though I need to invest in them so they will appreciate me, like me, respect me, admire me, love me. I see myself through what I think they think about me, and that necessarily disregards everything God thinks about me. When one views people in this light, one does not love; one uses. One does not give, one takes. In short, when I seek validation and applause in people, I worship them. And whom you worship, you fear. But the hitch is that only God can be feared and loved and worshipped all at the same time, for He is the only one who ought to be worshipped. And, as C.S. Lewis so often liked to say, putting second things first corrupts the seconds and casts out the firsts.

Unfortunately for this side of Jenn-introversion, Dad is preaching through 1 John at our church. And if you know anything about the Johns, you know that a huge emphasis is on loving people because of and through the love God pours out on His children.

"...the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1 John 2:8-11).

Tough, at least for the fearful introvert. Sure, if one returns tired from a long day at a party because he or she expended energy into loving the people there, that is perfectly alright. The Bible is not here commanding that you be a bouncy well of energy that merrily yips and yaps at every turn. What the Bible here commands is for us to put others before ourselves and seek the best in Christ for our fellow brothers and sisters of the faith. So, if I trip into my room exhausted from a hard day's work of making people like me (aka using them), then we have a problem on our hands.

That is control. That is pride. That is worshipping others, which is ultimately worshipping yourself.

What is the secret to true love, then? How can I truly love the brethren? How can an introvert experience that holy weariness which comes of loving the People God loves, and of loving our neighbors whom we want to someday, Lord willing, love like brothers and sisters? There's a verse for that.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:1-7)

Encouragement in Christ. Participation in the Spirit. Comfort in love. We introverts (and extraverts!) have supernatural aids in loving people. Christ encourages us to look like Him. The Spirit dwells in us to change our beings into godliness. God Himself comforts us in His love. And see another thing that has happened here? We are living for God, not man. We have found our security in Him, not in the praise of people. We don't need others to complete us. We don't need others to worship us. We only need them to worship with us, to be completed alongside us. Yes, indeed, putting second things second really makes the second things shine.

A Girl Reading, by George Cochran Lambdin

So, is people-fearing a problem only for introverts? Nah, extraverts have it, too. They just show it in different ways. But the answer to both manifestations is the same, because it is the same problem: "And He answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself'" (Luke 10:26). Interestingly enough, these are the opening lines for the parable of the Good Samaritan. Loving God with everything you are, in such an intensity that you give yourself up to Him, and that alone, allows you to love others, not use them.

Does that mean I am not an introvert anymore? Nah again. I still like books, I still like quiet, I still like writing really long reflective and not so brilliant but very introspective blog posts. In fact, it is good for people to develop the virtue of sitting quietly and thinking about the motives of our actions and how we can look more like Christ. But it is also good to develop the virtue of not just looking at  the other mathematicians shoes, but also to look in his face and show Christ's love to him. It is not that I am becoming an extravert to become more godly; it is that I am becoming a more Biblically-minded and Christ-like Jenn. Thoughtful, reflective, sure (any Christian extravert can be that, too). But also bold, and selfless, and communicative, and humble (any Christian introvert can be those things, after all). Honestly, it comes back down to the pure and simple: Becoming a Fair Lady, and becoming more like Christ. ;)

There are of course a bajillion more things I could say on the subject of introversion, but, well, there are better things to be doing. Ahem, please excuse me whilst I go read a book (and don't you ever interrupt me...).


  1. For the record, your list of introverted attributes describes *why* we became friends -- we're two peas in a pod :P
    As a fellow-self-admitted-introvert, I love this =) It's important to understand who God created us to be and not try to deny it ;) At the same time, you did a great job of expounding on how we can use our personalities for His glory!

  2. Hehe, yes, even introverts can meet each other on the web. So grateful for that!
    And thanks, Megan. :)

  3. I can really relate, especially to the "confessions" part of your description of an introvert. I've been thinking about this kind of thing a lot lately, and I found it helpful to read your thoughts. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Even as introverts, it is good to know we are not alone. Yes, definitely things to think through!

  5. I'm glad you're not an introvert on email or I'd get lonely.


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