Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Outward-Focused Introversion

Well, you might as well know: I'm a textbook introvert. An off-the-chart I in the Myers-Briggs test. It's amazing how one character trait - having a mind that naturally gravitates inward - can effect nearly everything. When I was younger I was as shy as all get out and had the hardest time communicating with people. But, thankfully, the Lord decided He didn't want me to be shy anymore and He kept putting situations in my life that forced me to grow up.

While I'm over the shyness, I've still had a bit of a love-hate relationship with introversion. It always frustrated me that my personality makes certain things difficult. For example, God calls us to be selfless and others-oriented. That's a bit harder when I'm always locked inside my own mind. Witnessing looks different in my life than it does a lot of other people. The whole thing with going up to a total stranger and saying, "Hey, want to know Jesus?" doesn't work well with me (nor do I think it's very effective in our culture, but that's another topic). I have enough trouble talking about the weather with stranger, much less matters of eternity. When I witness, I need to take the time to establish and build a relationship with the person.

So, this brings me to my main point. How do I, as an introvert, act in an others-oriented way? Is introversion and selflessness fundamentally opposed? Must I fight my introvert tendencies in order to serve others?

Well, there are certain introvert tendencies that need to be overcome in order to be others-oriented. But there are also traits of extroversion that must be conquered to accomplish the same thing. Sin will mess up any personality trait we have though that will look different on different people.

However, I also believe that certain introverted traits can be utilized, harnessed and redeemed in a manner that is glorifying to God and beneficial to others. Look at some these introverted traits and think about how they can be used in this manner.


Gain energy when they are alone, and lose energy when among many others.
Derive energy from the inner world, i.e., feelings, ideas, impressions.
Are good listeners.
Think carefully before doing or saying anything.
Maintain more eye contact while listening to someone than when speaking.
Have few interests, but any interest if present is high.
Consider only deep relationships with others as true "friendship".
Prefer to talk one on one than in a group.
Speak slowly, with pauses.
Need silence to concentrate, do not like it when they are interrupted.
Benefit from long-term memory, which often gives a feeling of "light-headedness" and may have trouble finding the right words during a conversation.
Are better than extroverts in coping with tasks requiring attention.
Perform better in studies than extroverts.
Find it easier to learn by reading than in a conversation with others.
Work at the same level regardless of whether they are praised or not.
May have difficulty remembering faces and names.

Now granted, some of these traits mean that introverts sometimes have problems interacting with others. However, I also believe that many of these traits can be channeled in a way that is actually beneficial to others. For example, while introverts don't necessarily feel the need to be the "life of the party" they do desire intimacy and the friends they do have they usually like to know very well. I many ways, introverts are therefore better prepared to help people in time of need because of that quest for intimacy and the tendency to be better listeners.

Likewise, because we process internally, we can often have a calming effect on others. During a stressful situation, a friend once told me how grateful he was that I had remained calm. The funny thing was, I was probably as stressed as he was. However, because that stressed worked itself out internally, I was able to help calm others and keep that stress from spreading.

So, here's my point to all my fellow introverts: God knows what's He's working with. He's big enough to work with anyone. Therefore, rely on His Spirit and, instead of using it as an excuse, use your personality in a way that points others to the incredible glory of God.


  1. Very neat to read, especially since I'm a major introvert myself. Its been interesting for me to try and come out of my shell, but not to abandon the trait that God gave me. In a way, I'm proud of my introversion, but I don't let it dictate my life. =)
    I also have been told I'm very calm, laid back and not concerned with peoples opinions of me. There are definitely plusses. =)

  2. Hey Autumn! Thanks for commenting. I like the way you summarize it. Introversion is something given by God but shouldn't control us :-).

  3. In the right crowd, I would consider myself an extrovert... But give me a good book and that changes. Excellent job on this article, I enjoyed it thoroughly!