I'm sure the apostle Paul didn't have personality tests in mind when he wrote, “The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). But there’s part of me that, to be honest, echoes with that idea at times.
You see, I’m an introvert.
For most of my life I assumed I was an extrovert simply because I wasn’t shy. But, as Susan Cain points out in her TED talk about introversion, “It’s different from being shy. Shyness is about fear of social judgment.” Introversion, on the other hand, is about one’s inner response to social stimulation. Introverts, according to Cain, are “most alive . . . [and] most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”
The turning point for me in accepting my introvert self was honestly grappling with the question posed by The Myers & Briggs Foundation: “Where do you put your attention and get your energy?” For extroverts, the answer is “the outer world of people and things” while for introverts it’s the “inner world of ideas.”
While there are degrees of introversion, from the quiet to the outgoing among us, all Christian introverts must grapple with a critical question: How do we live out Scripture’s call to community when, to be honest, we’d often rather be alone? We may not quite be the eye saying, “I don’t need you” to the hand, but at times we may be the eye saying to the hand—and the rest of the body—you exhaust me.
Yet God did not design us for isolation. All of us, introverts and extroverts alike, need the discipline of community because it calls us out of ourselves. In this issue of Today’s Christian Woman, our cover story examines the excuses that hold us back from experiencing true community. Austin Channing Brown unpacks principles for building friendships across cultural divisions. And Amy Jackson explores how community isn’t ultimately about us—it’s about making a difference in the world.
While introverts like me may resonate more with time alone, Henri Nouwen reminds me that there is a beautiful interplay between solitude and community: an interweaving of alone time and together time that’s integral to the Christian life. Nouwen wrote:
The discipline of solitude does not stand alone. It is intimately related to the discipline of community. . . . Through the discipline of solitude we discover space for God in our innermost being. Through the discipline of community we discover a place for God in our life together. Both disciplines belong together.
So while, like many Christian introverts, I need recovery “alone time” nearly every Sunday after church, I still know—deep down—an essential truth. Body . . . I need you.
Introverts Need Community Too
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