Here are two good working definitions of introverts and extroverts:
- Introverts tend to be more energized by time alone than by time with people, and tend to have an inate preference for less stimulating environments.
- Extroverts tend to be more energized by time with people than by time alone, and tend to have an inate preference for more stimulating environments.
I believe both introversion and extroversion are God-given personality traits, and because each is God-given, each can be used to His glory.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:3-5)
I happen to be an introvert, and am always interested in learning ways that I can use this introversion to glorify God. How can I best serve the body of Christ, using my very own personality? My attempts at life have never gone well when I've tried to be someone I'm not. :)
One thing I have noticed when I've read articles on introversion over the years is that these articles tend to be defensive in tone, or to have a somewhat bitter flavor. This is probably because introverts recognize that modern society is geared largely toward extroverts: if we're not careful, we can spend a good chunk of our lives either feeling like a fish out of water, defending our own preferences to people who think something is wrong with us, or just feeling completely exhausted and awkward trying to be extroverted. I don't think that's what we're supposed to do with our introversion. Nope.I've read two excellent articles lately that recognize the potential of using introversion to God's glory.
In a recent discussion of his 33 years in ministry, introverted Pastor John Piper detailed how he learned to love others through his personal gifts and limitations:
Plead with God to make your in-disposition to be with people a blessing to people. In other words, I would say after 33 years, my default after preaching is to go home and pray and read, not to hang out for three hours over a meal. That’s my disposition. I do hang out for an hour and pray with people, and I’m glad I do, and it is rewarding to do it.... If you're wired that way, instead of constantly praying God would make you another kind of person, pray that he would make you really useful for people. I think he’s done that for me....
He goes on to explain exactly how he thinks God has best used him in his ministry as a pastor.
In her article Four Lies About Introverts (see? we tend to go on the defensive), Amie Patrick, the introverted wife of an extroverted pastor, writes,
The lie I'm most tempted to believe is that the way God has wired me is incompatible with the life he's called me to live.
She goes on to dismantle four misconceptions about introverts (extroversion is the Biblical ideal; introverts don't like people; solitude is selfish and indulgent; introversion is incompatible with teaching and leadership gifts) and to advocate a view of introversion and extroversion as two complementary and important models of leadership within the church.
... my leadership gifts aren't expressed in the same way as my extroverted husband. I tend to lead best from a more contemplative place. My creativity flourishes, and my best ideas rise to the surface when I have time to be alone more so than when I'm brainstorming with others in a highly dynamic environment. Since there is no one-size-fits-all model for leadership, our churches will be best served when there's room at the table for extroverted and introverted leaders alike.
I was blessed by the insights in both of these articles. :)