I live in an area that has a lot of engineers. Recently an engineer told me a joke that I thought was funny. He said, "How can you tell if an engineer is an extrovert? ... He's looking down at YOUR shoes." Ok ... you had to be there. :) Anyway, this past weekend, I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit with the team from Grace Community Church. I'll probably be posting several thoughts from the Summit in the next few days. (You've been warned.) Anyway, one speaker, Susan Cain, spoke on the power of introverts and it was truly fascinating.
I would definitely consider myself an introvert. There was a time when I wasn't so proud of this. I knew I worked better when I was alone rather than in a group. I knew I felt more refreshed and renewed in a small setting than in a large one. I knew that part of my ministry role meant that I needed to "turn it on" at different times and around different groups of people, but boy, I was truly exhausted afterwards because it took so much out of me to do so. I rarely left large groups feeling refreshed or energized. I left feeling exhausted and often guilty for feeling that way.
For many in ministry, the myth can often be that you have to be loud and outgoing and have a "take over the room" personality in order to be effective. Susan calls this the "Extrovert Ideal" or "the ever-present belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight." For a long time, I think I fell for that myth until I realized that if I truly am "fearfully and wonderfully made," as God tells me in Psalm 139:14, then I don't have to pretend to be something that I'm not. I can be secure in who I am. I feel as if I'm certainly becoming more comfortable with who I am and learning to believe that Ephesians 2:10 is as true for an introvert as it is for an extrovert ... "I am God's workmanship (handiwork, masterpiece) created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared in advance for me to do." What that tells me is that there are only certain works prepared for me and if I do not do them, "something important will be left undone." And, that's not just true of me ... it's true of you as well. Introvert ... extrovert ... doesn't matter. We are all wired in certain ways for certain things and we must seek to plug those wires in to the right outlets and unleash the power of the good things God has planned for us to do.
Another thing Susan mentioned in her talk was that "There is no such thing as a 'one size fits all' environment." I really feel like this is an important thing for both extroverts and introverts to realize and it speaks to why we need each other so badly. Roughly 1/3 of the population are introverts. This obviously means that a majority of the population would be more extroverted which also means environments and methods and programs are often designed with the extrovert in mind. She began to talk about her conversations with many introverts in mega churches. Mega-churches tend to be loud and high energy ... something that any extrovert would love! But, it's important to realize that while an introvert may love the church, the environment may be a little more difficult for them to handle. And, she stated that it's so vital to understand that just because a person may not be incredibly boisterous or loud in worship doesn't mean they are not worshipping. Just because a person may not speak up to pray in front of a group, doesn't mean they aren't a person of prayer. Just because a person may not step forward doesn't mean they haven't deeply processed what they've heard and plan to do something about it. If an we call people to do something and expect them to do it in the way we want them to do it, we may be, in reality, calling them not to be true to who they really are. As an introvert, I can watch an extrovert do or say something and think that they are being "showy" when in reality their heart is very genuine. An extrovert can watch an introvert not raise their hands in worship or not share their deepest struggles in a large gathering and think they are really missing out in worship or not as committed to God as someone else who may do those things when, in reality, this person is a very passionate follower of Jesus and truly committed. It just looks different. This is important for us all to realize. No matter what our personality type, we need to remember: 1) I am not the judge of a person's motives or heart 2) Just because someone doesn't do it like me doesn't mean they are more right than me or I am more right than them 3) We need to compliment each other.
Caring about your cause is a powerful form of leadership. Introverts care deeply. They go deep with their passions and have a strong will and passion to move forward. If you are an introvert, "show the courage to speak softly." Don't be ashamed of who you are and realize that God has gifted you and empowered you to go deep in your relationships and passions. You have something powerful to offer and something great will be left undone if you do not.