Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Don't Capitulate to an Extroverted Mold

One of the insights I've gained in not only my life as an introvert, but especially my life as a Christian introvert, is that the majority of Christians often want introverts to "get out of their comfort zones" and become extroverts. 

However, my question is this:  if introverts are expected to become extroverts (all in the name of sacrifice and getting out of one's comfort zone for the Lord), then, applying the same principle to extroverts, are they also to "get out of their comfort zone" and become introverts? Are they to be forced to live in solitude as the measure of their spirituality, or to serve only in the background where nobody will notice them?

Why is it that the measure of one's spiritual zest and "love for God" is almost always measured in extroverted terms? When is the last time an extrovert was told to stop raising their hands in worship, stop being so relational and stop enjoying group functions?! The very same people who would never tell an extrovert to stop doing these things have no problem at all, in fact often feel it is their duty, to tell introverts to stop being introverts. 

The day I said "no" to "getting out of my comfort zone" was the day I heard God say, "Finally, you are freeing yourself to be who I made you to be, and live within the temperament I gave you." 

The following quote sums it up nicely:

“One of the greatest mistakes a believer can make is to renounce or repress his God-given uniqueness in a vain attempt to appear more spiritual. That error is deadly on two counts. First, after ten or fifteen years of identity repression you can totally lose your understanding of who you really are. Second, there are some people outside the family of God who will never see Him for who He really is until they watch Him living and working authentically in one of His unique sons or daughters—one just like you!
Do you want to be a contagious Christian? Then stop apologizing for your God-given design. Quit trying to deny your individuality. Give up on trying to stuff yourself into someone else’s mold of what a good Christian should be. That’s not the game plan God has in mind for you...
In fact, in the kaleidoscope of God’s family, there’s room for all gifts and temperaments. God may have given you extraordinary depths of mercy, lots of patience, heights of wisdom, or the ability to enjoy adventure or to thrive on solitude. And, somewhere in your community, there’s probably a seeker who’s one step away from coming to faith but who needs to come into contact with someone just like you—with your personality, your temperament, your passion, and your interests....” Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg in Becoming a Contagious Christian

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14

Copyright Barb Harwood


Glenn Fuller said...

The only time I become an extrovert is when I drink alcohol. That alone makes me question both. It is with considerable shame that I remember trying to be someone else. g

Barb Harwood said...


What you describe is the same for me. I began drinking at 17 and was instantly addicted due to the relief I finally found from social awkwardness and anxiety, fear of social embarrassment, and distaste for social engagement (it was also the final “coming of age” event to become an official member of my drinking family. It was my family, not high school friends, who gave me permission to mix that first cocktail at 17 and who took me out to the bars for the traditional christening of my being of “legal age,” which at the time was 18. To grow up in this large drinking family was to be inundated with an extroverted model in which there was no place for a reserved, non-drinking loner).

I quickly became comfortable in a drinking skin, because it allowed me to live in the prevailing parameters of other people. For 21 years, drinking made me acceptable in people’s eyes (the same people who would find me rather strange and aloof in social situations if I had not been drinking). With alcohol, I felt I measured up.

The only problem is, like you mentioned in your last comment, I was full of self-loathing after I would drink. But hey, folks liked me.

See, people liked me because when I was around them I pretended to agree with their values, politics, need to socialize together and their extroversion. All of it was a lie, so naturally, when I quit drinking and pretending, people around me were upset. It was my own fault for leading them on and causing them to believe we had something together that we didn’t.

When we hide for too long, we lose ourself, as the quote in the above post points out. We have no genuine friends, beliefs, or values because everything is based on alcohol and putting up a good front. We also never grow up.

When I quit drinking at age 38, I was actually only 17 years old, because that’s the age when my development was halted by the drinking life. Drinking filled the space that learning, growth, and gaining confidence in who I am as the person God made me to be would have happened. Without alcohol, I would have sought out experiences and jobs that were in line with my personality and gifts, and not been manipulated by an extroverted paradigm.

But, lacking any Godly influence or guidance, and following in the footsteps of everyone around me to simply take the short cut and drink, that’s what I did.

The way I dealt with the shame of who I used to be was to first die to that old self when Jesus came knocking. I can’t even put this regeneration into words, because my new life in Christ was a process of events and heart change, a process that continues today. I’m saved, but yet there are still parts of the old me that continue to die, that need to die. But the day I chose Christ and gave full authority to Him over who I am and how I am made, is the day that I experienced, for the first time, joy in being in my own skin, an introverted skin!

Jesus has forgiven me for trying to be something I’m not, and using alcohol to do it. He has forgiven me for stunting my growth all those years, and is graciously working with me to mature me in Him.

Since I’ve been a Christian 14 years, I figure I’m actually only 31 years old developmentally. That’s what alcohol does, it stunts one’s growth and robs us of who we really are. But Christ brings growth and gifts us with the freedom to be who we really are!

Thank you again for sharing. We introverts need to stick together and make it safe for other introverts to be introverts! They’ll never see our introversion if we hide it. May God bless you as you journey with Him!