Introvert - or Not?

One of the things I began to learn about in a more formal way at New Wine was about being an introvert, and more particularly, about being an introvert in the context of the charismatic church. I've been awarefor a long, long, timethat I'm an introvert, but I haven't always been comfortable with it - in fact, at one time, I wondered whether it was even possible for me, as an introvert, to be a Christian at all.

So what is an introvert - and for that matter, what is an extrovert? Why are they different, and why does it matter?

An introvert is, classically, someone who 'processes' internally - i.e. they think about the world and their interaction with it, within their own 'internal world'. They derive their energy from their internal thoughts, and become exhausted by over-much external stimulation, often resulting in them withdrawing from interaction for a period to 'recharge their batteries'. By contrast, extroverts derive their energy from interaction with the external, and tend to 'think aloud' - throwing out seemingly random ideas. Extroverts tend to find solitude draining. Of course, there is a continuous 'spectrum' ranging from extreme extroversion to extreme introversion, with those in the middle sometimes referred to as 'ambiverts'.

You can't choose whether you are introvert or extrovert - it appears to be 'hard-wired' into our brains. Modern neurological imaging methods have revealed that there are physiological differences in the way the brains of introverts and extroverts work. So basically, barring a major miracle, you're stuck with what you've got. Roughly 1/3 - 1/2 (depending how you measure it) of the population are introverts.

I am a fairly extreme introvert. I am also quite shy. Not all introverts are shy - shyness isn't a given. I have become less shy as I have matured - or at least I've become better able to overcome my shyness. As an introvert, I need time alone each day, not only to pray, but to think; to process all those external stimuli with which we're bombarded. The bathroom has long been one of my favourite places... Simply because I can lock the door and keep the world (and my family!) out! If I don't get time alone,to begin withI get cranky (I also get cranky if I'm hungry, but that's nothing to do with my introversion!), and if I don't get some respite, I end up becoming utterly exhausted. Don't get me wrong, I am not a loner (any more, though at one time I tended to be, but that's another story altogether). I relish time spent with others - I love being with people. But I know too that interaction tires me, and I need to husband my reserves of energy carefully if I'm to thrive in company.

I love Sundays - seeing all my brothers and sisters in our church, and spending time with them worshipping God and having fellowship with one another. Usually, myself and my fellow warden 'look after' one service each. One service is about my limit really - I find Sundays when she's away utterly exhausting - I manage to look after both services, but my inclination (which I try to resist) is to hustle people out of the building after the evening service a little more vigorously than in the mornings, and when I arrive home I need solitude for quite some time.

Charismatic evangelical christianity seems largely to be predicated upon the notion that christians are extrovert. There is much about it that is alien to introverts. I think that is, at least in part, because it derives, ultimately, from the USA - a culture which seems to value highly overt extroversion, almost above all else. Next time I may try to examine charismatic evangelical christianity and to begin to analyse why it is, in some ways, so 'unnatural' for introverts... Or I might want to talk about something completely different!

Copyright Phil Hendry, 2021