God Loves Introverts, Too
I recently read a post on Facebook that made me madder than I have been in a long time. The person basically said that introverts can’t share the love of Jesus while “hiding in their cozy little caves”. I’m not proud of the way I responded or reacted. It wasn’t the right thing to do but I felt that my inner introvert was under attack and that is something that I have grown quite tired of. I have always been introverted. It is so ingrained in me that I have a hard time imagining what life would look like any other way. Oh, believe me, I’ve wanted that other life, that charismatic, fit in anywhere personality that everyone loves to be around. I’ve prayed for it but, to use a great Christian cliché that never grows old (ugh) “It isn’t God’s will,” (apparently neither is me having hair, but I digress).
We’ve all heard the saying, “You need to step out of your comfort zone”. This phrase is generally spoken by some extrovert, or at least someone in charge of something, who is telling us that we are not doing things the way they should be done. We need to step out of our comfort zone and do more, do better, stop being afraid and, by doing this, helpthemaccomplish theirgoals. Now, don’t confuse what I’m about to say. Yes, there are times when we all need to step out of our comfort zones. It is a part of personal growth. The problem comes when others expect us to step in their direction, to do things theirway, instead of the direction God created us to follow.
Something non-introverts do not understand is that introverts spend a good part of their day outside of their comfort zones. Simple things like making a phone call or going shopping can be very stressful for us. A trip to Costco or Walmart can leave me needing an IV drip of something involving alcohol, though in all fairness Costco and Walmart probably do this to most people. I was once at a Worship Night at church and the Worship Pastor told everyone to get out of our comfort zonesand raise our hands in the air. I wanted to scream, “Hey, idiot, I’m about 10 miles outside my comfort zone just being here!” I went out to the foyer to get away and ended up leaving Worship Night angry. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that is how it’s supposed to work. Of course, the good Christian will tell me that being angry was my own fault and I should be obedient and do as the leader said. Again, I should fit into the nice box that someone else has created for me.
True introverts spend an inordinate amount of time telling ourselves that we don’t belong, we don’t fit in, we aren’t good enough. When that Worship Pastor told me to get out of my comfort zone and raise my hands what my introvert brain heard was you’re not doing it right, you’re not good enough.And then I felt like I didn’t belong and left. My wonderful wife was also angry with me that night as she felt like I’d abandoned her. I felt this to be somewhat unfair, unlike that time at the first Kiss concert we attended together when I told her I was going to the bathroom and left her alone all through Skid Row and Ted Nugent while I waited in line for a beer before waiting in line for the bathroom, then waited in line for another beer (the bathroom line was really long) and, anyway, I earned that abandonment accusation.
Small talk is incredibly painful for me. Most of the time I don’t want to talk to people, even people I know. Nothing against people, I just don’t have anything to say and it takes a whole lot of effort to come up with something. This has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older and shows no sign of slowing down. Church people always expect everyone to be friendly and make everyone else feel comfortable. Those of you that go to church are no doubt familiar with that weekly ritual where you are told to turn and say hello to someone you don’t know. I hide in the bathroom. Really, ask my wife. This part of the service is stupid anyway because church folk don’t sit by people they don’t know. We sit in the same seat every week surrounded by our family and friends (I always sit on the aisle with my wife on one side and my quick escape to the bathroom on the other).
Introverts tend to overthink things. Our brains rarely shut down which is why we always seem distracted. This isn’t overthinking like when you have a really big decision to make and don’t want to screw it up. We overthink everything. All that energy non-introverts spend socializing we are burning in our heads. We fear looking stupid or ignorant. We constantly worry about doing something that makes us stand out (or is it just me?). This constant stress takes a lot out of us which is one of the reasons we need time alone to recharge.
The Christian church teaches that we are all God’s children, created in his image for a unique purpose (or some variation thereof). Pastors and church leaders tell us this and then try to force us all into the same little box. The problem is, we are not the same. What energizes one person exhausts me. What I find stimulating might bore you to tears. God cannot be put in a box and neither can we. We all need to grow, to stretch ourselves for the cause of Christ but we need to stretch in the way God is pulling us, not in the way someone else thinks we should. To expect an introvert to share the love of Christ the same way an extrovert does is like asking Donald Duck to enunciate his words. It’s not going to happen. You will probably never catch me telling someone about Jesus in conversation. In the immortal words of that great American poet and statesman, Rocky Balboa, “I don’t talk so good, ya know?” God made me to write, not talk. He made me to be able to spend hours, even days, alone thinking and writing (try that, extroverts!).
For better or worse, I am an introvert. God made me that way for His purpose. To try to make anything else out of me is wasted time and effort.
Special thanks to THAT GUY at work who stumbled across my blog and told me that reading it helped him a bit and that I need to write some more. You, Sir, inspired me to get my butt in gear and get back to work.