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empi2My last post a few weeks ago entitled “Introverted Evangelism” was, in part, my reaction to an evangelism class I took last year. Students were encouraged to step out of their “comfort zones”, yet the methods/ideas that were promoted would have primarily been  comfort stretching for introverts, and less so for extroverts. This was apparent when some of the students shared their adventures in sharing the Gospel. What was so-called “stepping out of your comfort zone” was fairly easy for some, but terrifying to others. Some aspects of this class actually made me angry and the stress/pressure of sharing my faith was terrible. Geesh.

Several years ago I finally became comfortable with who I am as a person – it took almost 4o years. Yet, this evangelism class brought many things bubbling back to the surface.

Introversion is rarely described in a positive way. (However, of late there has been a positive promotion of introversion!) Ask an introvert – especially one who closely fits the description – and you will likely hear many stories of things said and done to them over the years. “Why are you so quiet?”  “You need to lighten up.”  “You’re too serious.”  I’ve seen introverts purposely put on the spot in order to force them to open up (I’ve experienced it too). This is a terrible thing to do to an introvert – striking terror in our hearts. Spontaneous sharing is not something introverts typically do well – our minds go blank. Rather we need time to think, prepare, and process information. We’ll speak out, and can actually be very articulate, but when we are ready to do so. We prefer a heads up if you want us to share something in a group setting. (Ironically, introverts can actually be exceptional public speakers!)

Back in 2003, an article on introversion appeared in The Atlantic which still gets shared today. Caring for Your Introvert, The habits and needs of a little-understood group. It is worth the read. Here is an excerpt:

In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. “People person” is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like “guarded,” “loner,” “reserved,” “taciturn,” “self-contained,” “private”—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality.

Surely introverted qualities can be seen in a positive way? How about…

thoughtful thinker

works well in one-on-one situations

good listener

brings a calm presence to a room

It sadly took me almost 40 years to see myself in a positive light. Seeing myself in a more positive way, changed me. While I’m still an introvert, I gained a new confidence. Being comfortable in your own skin makes a difference!

Here are some other links of interest:

  • From Relevent magazine: Introverted Evangelism. I was relieved to find another introvert sharing similar thoughts, and appreciated the author’s positive approach. Here is an excerpt. And yes – being forced to use methods that were so against my nature came across as both faked and forced. The same would happen, I think, to extroverts forced to use methods against their nature. (Hmm…I wonder what would have happened in my evangelism class if methods more natural to introverts had been forced on the extroverts?)

When we become comfortable with who we are, no matter what our personality type is, or where our interests lie, we can become more honest in our evangelism. If you don’t feel natural approaching strangers to talk about the Gospel, try another approach more suited to your personality and gifts. What’s your element—that place that fuels you in joyful energy? Find it, and connect with people there. Your joy will make people notice, and perhaps open up opportunities to share Christ’s love. The world hates fakers, and the last thing you want to do is present Christ in a way that is perceptibly fake or forced.

  • Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture by Adam McHugh. While I have not read this book, I’ve heard good things about and it receives many positive reviews on amazon. “Introverts are called and gifted by God. But many churches tend to be extroverted places where introverts are marginalized…Adam McHugh shows how introverts can live and minister in ways consistent with their personalities. He explains how introverts and extroverts process information and approach relationships differently and how introverts can practice Christian spirituality in ways that fit who they are…Discover God’s call and empowering to thrive as an introvert, for the sake of the church and kingdom.”
  • Susan Cain (author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking) gives a 20 minute talk: In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

And yes, I’m a Star Wars fan.