Confessions of an introvert
Lately, I feel like everyone is trying to persuade me to join a group, go out for happy hour or attend a networking event. “It will be so fun to meet new people!” “You can share life together!” “Interact with others who are in the same place in life!”
Well, no offense to these well-meaning folks, but all of that sounds like the complete opposite of fun. It sounds almost tortuous, actually.
You may’ve seen a recent Huff Po column that went viral. Its title, “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert,” immediately intrigued me. I was already fully aware of my introvertedness; it was no secret to me. However, I was shocked to read that 22 out of 23 signs were true for me.
I find small talk excruciatingly difficult. Few things make me feel like more of a fake than networking. I always, always, always pick a seat at the end of the row. My husband is the embodiment of an extrovert. Even during my pregnancies, my blood pressure was surprisingly low.
Constant inner monologue? Phone call screener? Writer? Yes, yes, yes.
I realize scoring 22 out of 23 begs the question: Which one was not true? It was No. 18. I’ve never been called an “old soul.”
I used to think introverts were shy or unfriendly, but I wouldn’t choose either of these terms to describe myself. I’m not opposed to meeting new people. I guess I just want to do it on my own terms. Preferably one on one. Not in groups.
Interestingly enough, a recent message during church focused on, you guessed it, community. The pastor discussed various reasons why we, as human beings, sometimes reject community. One of the reasons is fear.
“We’re concerned that it’ll reveal things about us,” he said. “You get involved with other people, and they begin to see your strengths and your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities. They begin to see what you’re really like, although I don’t know if you can ever know if you’re really liked unless people know what you’re really like and love you for that.”
Like most modern churches, I think, the church I attend pushes small groups – groups of 8, 10 or 12 people who get together in someone’s home and study the Word and pray and “share life.” I realize what I am about to say is not going to be popular with many of my Christian friends, but UGHHHHH, small groups!
I’m not afraid of being vulnerable and revealing things about myself. Hellooooo, I’m a blogger! But wouldn’t it be better to just send all my small groupies a link to my blog? Speaking of my blog, I’m pretty sure only my mom would read it if it weren’t for my sharing it via social media. Ah, social media, how I love to hate you.
Some more wisdom from the pastor’s message: Community “can be replaced by social media. If we think that that is community, if we think that we’re really having meaningful relationships across the Internet, we’re missing out on life because it’s just not the same as being there, looking in someone’s eyes, giving somebody a hug. If social media replaces relationships, then it’s a problem.”
I completely agree. I’m all for looking in someone‘s eyes, for giving somebody a hug. Notice how those are singular. One hug, one set of eyes. One person at a time, baby. Does that still fit the definition of community in many churches? I honestly don’t know.
The pastor also shared Proverbs 18:1-2, which reads “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
I recently asked a few close friends to tell me three words they would use to describe me. One of the most common answers was “opinionated.” I figured it would be. I actually love that about me, and I’m happy others recognize it.
But thinking about that message and re-listening to it on the church’s website, I was struck by that second verse in Proverbs 18: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (emphasis mine).
While discussing the verses, the pastor added, “We choose to isolate ourselves – or insulate ourselves – and I think we suffer for it. A person who isolates or separates himself from other people is selfish. You’re just thinking about yourself; you’re not thinking about other people. And you’re missing out on the richness that other people could provide or you could provide to other people. You become foolish when that happens, and you begin to think that you know a lot. You form your own opinions and your own thoughts; then you love to spout them out like you know something. Community begins to expose the things we say and do. We need other people to correct what we’re thinking.”
I started wondering, am I insulating myself with the same close-knit group of people? Am I foolish because I love being opinionated? How do I reconcile being real – with all my strengths, weaknesses and vulnerabilities – with being in a group? It is tough. So, so tough. Group participation freaks me out.
Perhaps there is another option for “community” in the church. Perhaps small groups are not the only way. When I was in college, I had a prayer partner. I admit, it was hard at first – to meet someone new, tell her what was going on in my life, then pray together OUT LOUD. As a baby Christian, I thought, “Are you kidding me?” But it got better. Way better, actually. It taught me so much. I got excited to share when prayers were answered.
Maybe the prayer partner program is more for young people. At my previous church, there was a brief initiative that encouraged mentoring among adults. An old-ish Christian would get together with a young-ish Christian, and they would talk and share life and pray. Sort of an informal thing, yet it could still be meaningful. I’m not sure the program ever really took off, but I thought it was a good idea.
I like options that don’t put people in black-and-white boxes. Maybe a small group is just one way to have “community.” Forcing community into the box of small groups doesn’t work for me.
But then again, maybe I’m just being stubborn and opinionated and hiding in my very hard-lined, black-and-white introvert box.
Originally published on ovparent.com.