Being an Introvert in a Loud World

I am an introvert. To the core. Everything about me screams it. I even scored a 97% on the Myers-Briggs for introversion once.

I am quiet.

Being around people saps my energy.

Saturday nights with a book are preferred.

A group larger than 3 is too big.

Meeting new people is stressful.

Smalltalk is draining.

In groups I prefer to listen.

I would rather be behind the scenes.

I don’t mind going out to eat alone.

Group projects are dreadful.

I have the most energy in the morning.

And for the longest time I thought these things meant there was something wrong with me. People have always called me shy. Teachers have always told me I need to speak up more in class. I’ve always felt misunderstood. Felt I wasn’t normal. Felt I needed to be different. More outgoing. More sociable. More like the world wanted me to be.

Our culture in the States is an extroverted one. In fact, it is one of the most extroverted in the world. We crave the extrovert ideal, this idea that in order to be successful or achieve something great you must be an extrovert. You must be comfortable in the spotlight. Comfortable putting yourself out there. We place extroverts on a pedestal. View them as someone to strive to be more like. They are the people our culture claims have “figured it out”. Whatever ‘it’ is.

And this idea has somehow made its way into the church.

We love the idea of the extrovert in the church. Think back to the last sermon you heard on evangelism. What stood out to you about it? How did it make you feel? Like really feel? So many of the sermons I have heard on evangelism, at least, get you fired up about telling others about Jesus. As they should. But they have always made me feel like I need to tell every single person I meet about Jesus. And if I don’t, I’m doing something wrong. That every word that comes out of my mouth must be this wonderful message about who Jesus is, what he has done in my life, and how he can change yours. That we must exude the love the of Christ at every moment. And while these are wonderful things to do, to me, as an introvert, it screams, “You aren’t a real Christian because you don’t do this”.

We have tied together the idea of faithfulness and extroversion. This idea that to be faithful we must talk about Jesus. We must join as many small groups and bible studies as we can. There is this constant pressure within the church on community. On participating in more and more church events and programs, volunteering as many places as we can. On meeting as many people as we can to make the biggest impact on the world for Christ.  That in order to be faithful, to actually live out the Great Commission, we must do all of these things as much, and as often as we can. And once again, these things are wonderful. They are needed and have their place. But I have always felt this almost unbearable pressure to do more. To be more. To be more involved. That I wasn’t enough. What I was doing wasn’t doing enough for Christ.

Because I am too quiet.

I have even gone so far as to begin questioning my experience of God because I was not as expressive, outwardly, as others. If I don’t raise my hands during worship or great others with a smile on Sunday mornings (and feel genuine about it inside instead of awkward) or cry in response to a message, then my experience must not be authentic. I’ve found myself asking, “Is God actually speaking to me? Am I really sensing His presence?” as I watch others around me visibly respond to God and I’m sitting there in my chair with my journal. I’ve been guilty of falling into the trap of thinking that if I don’t love Jesus out loud, in a way that is clearly visible to those around me, then it must not be real love.

I am too quiet.

And that thought has always stuck with me. It has beat me down. Made me feel inadequate. Made me question my faith. Forced me to evaluate time and time again whether I was actually following Jesus. It has made me feel like I am not living out the Gospel correctly.  There has always been this tension, this internal battle between who God has created me to be and living out the gospel in a way that lives up to these expectations. These standards. And I’m ashamed to admit that more often than not, the conclusion I draw is that God is not pleased with me because I’m not doing these things.

This idea of the extrovert ideal in the church lead me to believe that I could never do anything big for Christ because I didn’t fit this ideal.

I am too quiet.

In fact, it almost kept me from coming to Peru.  

When this extrovert ideal already exists in the American culture and within the church, Satan doesn’t have to work very hard to keep us from pursing those big things God’s asking us to do. Or even the small ones. The lie is already there. All Satan has to do is remind us of it, remind us of times in our lives when we felt like we needed to be different in order to do more for Christ, and the rest takes care of itself.

Now, I’m not saying that because God has made me an introvert, suddenly I don’t have to do these things. I don’t have to focus on evangelism and telling others about what Christ has done in my life. It doesn’t mean I don’t volunteer within the church and join a small group. It doesn’t mean I don’t greet those around me on Sunday morning. These things may be harder. They may sap my energy. They may make me uncomfortable. They may require me stepping outside my comfort zone, sometimes more often that I would like to in order to obey and follow where Christ is leading me. But these things are important. Community is important. Jesus’ ministry was always focused on community and being with people. And as in introvert, I must follow His example.

But for us introverts, that is going to look a lot different than the pressure I often feel from the church and from our culture. And we have to find that balance between who God has created us to be – quiet, reserved, listeners, servants – and what He called us to do in the Great Commission. We must daily choose to ignore the lies that so easily creep into our minds. Those lies that say we are too quiet. No one will ever listen. You won’t succeed. You have to be more like this or that in order to accomplish what God has laid in front of you. We must find the courage and faith to do those things anyway knowing that God created us with purpose. That every ounce of who we are, whether we are 97% introverted or 97% extroverted, quiet or outgoing, enjoy one-on-one conversations or leading groups, all of who we are was created with a purpose in mind. God’s purpose. A unique purpose.  

When we choose to believe those truths, God’s truths, Satan’s lies have no power. We are free to be who we are. We are free to be fearless. We are free to do big things for Christ. We are free to be us. We are free to be quiet and reserved, servants and behind-the-scenes people who are obedient in the moments God places in front of us to draw people to Himself. To be examples of who He is, both with our words and actions. We are free to be introverts for God’s glory.

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*Book recommendation for my introvert friends out there - Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. This is a must read! It sparked a lot of thoughts about the lies I believe about myself as an introvert and the true power I possess to make a difference for the Kingdom here on earth because I am an introvert.