By Michael Kelley
I would call myself a high-functioning introvert. In my mind, that means I can have a non-socially awkward conversation with a person, enjoy the occasional crowd, and even make small talk.
At least for a limited amount of time. But I can recall many times when my internal people clock has run out, and I’ve hidden in a bathroom stall or left a party early. To be clear, introverts don’t hate people. Introverts do, though, find energy from being alone, and then find that energy drained by larger crowds.
It’s not right or wrong to be an introvert or an extrovert in and of itself. But either personality type can go wrong if we let it, because all of our personalities have been in some way marred by sin. What does that look like?
I’m speculating here in the case of the extrovert, but I would imagine that if left unchecked, an extrovert can very easily slip into the kind of lifestyle in which they have a constant fear of missing out on something. Their self-worth and value ebbs and flows based on whether they have been invited and how much a part of the central action they are.
I can speak more personally from the perspective of the introvert. And in that case, the unchecked introvert can begin to look at others as mere annoyances that infringe on their own schedule, their own priorities, and their own time to themselves. I’ve felt it in myself, and perhaps you have, too.
If this is one of the ways that our introversion can drift into a sinful perspective, then there is one verse of Scripture I’d recommend every introvert to memorize:
So God created man in his own image;
he created him in the image of God;
he created them male and female (Gen. 1:27).
Why is this the verse for introverts to memorize? It provides a checkpoint for the introvert’s soul. Because we do find strength and energy in being alone, we can easily too quickly escape there at the expense of those God has put around us. Rather than listening, engaging, empathizing, or confessing, we can hide behind the nuances of our personalities. And when we constantly do that, we start to form an unhealthy image of those around us. We can very quickly forget the fact that every other human being in creation is a fellow image-bearer, and as such, is entitled to our respect and kindness.
If, as an introvert, we are always looking for the way out of conversation so that we can return to ourselves, we are neglecting the image of God in others. Furthermore, we are also assuming in that neglect that other people really have nothing to offer us that’s of any value. If the extrovert tends to lean too heavily on the opinions and affirmation of others, the introvert tends to lean too heavily on self-sufficiency and independence.
That’s why we come back to Genesis. That’s why we remind ourselves that these people God has intentionally put around us aren’t mere annoyances or interruptions; they bear the same image of God that we do. And that’s why, because we are being reshaped personalities and all through the power of the gospel, that the introvert slowly learns the gift and necessity of fellowship and community, just as the extrovert learns the gift of solitude:
“Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only alone do we learn to be rightly in fellowship” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Michael Kelley is the Director of Groups Ministry at LifeWay and author of Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life