Introvert and extrovert. Hardly anyone nowadays hasn’t heard these words.
“Oh, she’s an introvert. She’s pretty shy.”
“I’m an extrovert; I love people!”
“He’s pretty introverted…don’t count on him coming to your party.”
These phrases are tossed around in common speech quite often, but many people don’t know what they really mean.
The simple explanation is that introversion means gaining energy mostly from being alone, while extroversion means gaining energy mostly from being with other people. Introverts aren’t always shy or untalkative, and extroverts aren’t always loud and crazy—they often enjoy alone time, too!
Recently, there has been a growing movement to get more acceptance, understanding, and support for introverts. Many call this the “Introvert Revolution.”
And what could be better? It’s great for extroverts to respect introverts’ needs and try to improve life for them…introversion isn’t a sin, after all! God calls us to put in effort to understand and serve other people, even when it’s hard!
And being introverted is hard too. I know because I am one. I was drawn to this movement because I felt out of place, and many other people feel the same way: like there’s something wrong with them. It’s great to finally learn that it’s okay to be this way!
But. When it comes to this movement, we need to look before we leap. In fact, I would argue that we shouldn’t leap at all, unless we’re prepared to build a better diving board.
Self Before Others
Most modern people have heard someone tell them they need to learn to put themselves first. It’s something our culture loves to emphasize, righteously fighting to free individuals from the shackles of responsibility to and service of others. From all sides, we are hearing the beautiful, affirming message that we’re all perfect gods, and we should treat ourselves like it.
In all seriousness, though, it is a fact that the world is telling us to put ourselves above everything else. And while self-care (within limits) is important, —we are made in the image of God, after all, and should treat ourselves like it—the Bible itself tells us to “value others above ourselves” (Romans 12:10, emphasis mine). That shouldn’t just apply to one group accommodating another. It should be personal, with the individual in mind. And some of those individuals…are going to be extroverts.
But before going farther with this topic, a deeper understanding of the needs of introverts and extroverts may be required.
As I mentioned earlier, the idea that introversion is synonymous with shyness is a misconception. Though both introverts and shy people may tend to spend less time socializing, their reasons are drastically different. While shy people often avoid socializing because they’re afraid of it, introverts are simply drained more easily by too much interaction with people—or by other types of stimulation. It is possible to be both shy and introverted, but the words do not mean the same thing.
While extroversion and introversion exist on a spectrum, there are certain characteristics of people closer to either end that can be noticed.
For example, an introvert, who may be exhausted by social interaction or stimulation, may:
· Wind down after a tiring day by spending time alone
· Leave a party early because the—often still enjoyable—effort of socializing saps their energy
· Become tired or irritable during times of intense socializing.
An extrovert, who may gain a lot of energy from social interaction or stimulation, may:
· Wind down after a tiring day by spending time with friends or engaging in an exciting activity
· Get a long-lasting burst of energy at a party or social event
· Become quickly bored without enough social interaction
It’s important to keep in mind that everyone exhibits both introverted and extroverted characteristics at times, and some people fall very near the middle of the spectrum (this is called ambiversion).
The Goal of the Revolution
The emphasis of the Introvert Revolution is that extroverts should respect introverts’ needs for space and alone time. This is an admirable goal, but many members of the Introvert Revolution take it too far, expecting extroverts to go the extra mile for them without doing the same in return. Although there are people who don’t think this way, many—though they probably wouldn’t admit it—have the idea that the desires of an introvert should almost always outweigh those of an extrovert. This is obviously not biblical.
However, the real danger of being sucked into this movement is not being immediately transformed into an evil, vindictive extrovert-murder machine, it’s the subtlety of some of these views. It’s very easy to adopt a mindset of selfishness without knowing it, especially when we’re already so surrounded by similar ideas in our culture. We’re told that those who’ve been overlooked in the past should get special treatment, and not have to serve others.
But this is not a Biblical view. The Bible tells us we should all serve others. There is no exception for introverts, or any other group. 1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.”
Not, “Let no one seek his own good except those who have a really hard time because others don’t respect their lack of social energy and need for alone time.”
Extroverts need socializing as much as introverts need alone time. We have no grounds for putting ourselves as introverts above our fellow image-bearers, and these personality characteristics do not at all change our value to God.
Matthew 20:28 says, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus gave up His life for us. It’s not so much to ask that we give up our evening at home to bless a friend.
Identity in Introversion
Speaking of cultural pressures, the entire idea of the Introvert Revolution would be completely different if our culture hadn’t fallen into our current identity trap. We’re constantly being told that our identity lies in something outside of Christ: personality traits, physical characteristics…really, whatever you can think of. It’s easy to become stuck in this trap ourselves, and though we might struggle to see it, the reality is that this issue has permeated our culture so deeply it can be found in almost all our minds somehow.
But the Bible tells us that our identity is in Christ alone.
John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
Children of God…that’s who followers of Jesus are.
“The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,” (2 Corinthians 5: 17).
As believers, our identity should be in God, and only God.
Yes, it’s okay to be introverted. No, it’s not okay to make that your identity. Being a child of God matters more than anything else.
There is nothing wrong with introversion. It’s perfectly fine to have less social energy or prefer to recharge alone.
The problem comes when we focus so much on getting what we need as introverts that we refuse to serve others when it’s hard or inconvenient, as well as when we place our identity in our introversion instead of our God, and the truth that we are beloved of Him.