The other day I went bowling with a group of people from my church I consider good friends. I’m not good at bowling, but I always have fun—it’s one of those things I do just to do it because I enjoy it. I enjoy being with the people I went with as well.
But then something happened a few days later that caught me off guard. A conversation that went something like this:
“Are you happy?”
“You just seem unhappy.”
“Okay… I’m happy.”
“When we went bowling you didn’t act like you were having a good time.”
“I had a great time.”
“But you didn’t seem like you were having a good time.”
This conversation continued for another thirty minutes as the person explained to me I need to act more happy because I seem so unhappy all the time. By the time the conversation concluded I was unhappy, unlike before. Funny how being told over and over how unhappy you seem makes you actually feel that way.
We have a God who loves the beauty of variety—just look at creation: everything from sprawling nebulas to majestic mountains to blue ocean to galloping horses to funny looking fish with glowing parts. Shaping us in his image he has given us variety as well. Granted the fall has corrupted parts of it, but still there is goodness in the fact we don’t all share the same looks, personalities, talents, and dreams.
I am analytical. My mind races constantly, examining a variety of situations from different angles, watching, observing, and pondering. It’s terrible for falling asleep at night; but I’ve found it to be great for sermon preparation.
I am quiet and like to keep to myself. I prefer a lonely corner to the center stage. I’d rather listen to two other people talk than try to force an awkward conversation. I’m completely out of my element at potlucks; but I’m great at sitting in my office to study the Word and other books so I can have something to feed the sheep.
I am emotional but I keep my emotions controlled and mostly to myself. There are times I do cry, but you’re not going to see it much. I smile plenty, but it’s more subtle and less of a noticeable, toothy grin. I get frustrated and mad but I really have to be pushed before I lash out (and then go repent). Yeah, I know it makes it harder for people to connect with me on an emotional level, but it also means I have an easier time remaining calm and not making snap decisions out of panic.
I enjoy my friends, but not chitchat. I’m a bit of a loner, but a loner who also needs to be around people. If I have two days off, I prefer having one day to myself where I can read, write, play video games, or watch TV. And the other day I prefer to be near friends. But I’m not going to be the life of the party. I find happiness and contentment in just being with friends. I can ride in a car with my best friend for an hour and hardly say a word. It’s not because I’m mad and don’t want to be there; rather it is because my joy comes from simply being there. And when we do talk I want it to be something meaningful, not something that will be forgotten in five minutes. If you’re not like me, yeah this will cause you to look at me and maybe even think I’m not having a good time; but really I’m having a blast.
I’m an introvert. Plain and simple. I just happen to also have a great and gracious God who has called me to a life and ministry that stretches me. I hate being in front of people, I hate having all eyes on me, but when I stand up to preach his Word, that all melts away.
Not every introvert is going to be the same; we all have our own nuances. But if you’re not an introvert, realize this: I don’t have to be as excited, expressive, and outgoing as you to be happy. In fact if I’m forced to feel I must be those things it makes me uncomfortable and unhappy.
So what are some ways to truly help the introvert in your church be happy?
1. Don’t criticize them for their lack of outgoingness. It’s not a sin to be introverted, so don’t treat it like it’s something wrong that needs to be corrected. Such criticism tends to want to make them pull away further.
2. Fellowship with them, encourage them, and invite them to activities but realize while they’re with you they may not be the most social of people. I know in my case, if I’m invited to something I show up because I want to be there. My very presence is a statement of the fact I’m enjoying myself, even if I’m not doing a lot of talking. Because you have asked me to be a part, I know you care. If I have something on my heart or mind I want to share, I will but most likely in a more personal and private setting.
3. Help them find a ministry where they can serve without being out in the open. Sometimes God will do this seemingly contradictory thing of making some of us introverted types pastors or teachers. But he’ll also use a lot of introverts behind the scenes. They might not teach in AWANA but they’ll be there to work as an assistant and offer support. They might not be comfortable voicing a public prayer, but they may show up at the five person prayer meeting at Ms. Smith’s house.
I have a difficult time walking up to a stranger and engaging them in conversation, even a conversation about the Gospel. But I will happily go street or door-to-door evangelizing with someone who is comfortable talking. I will pray for you as you talk, I will give you support, and I will even interject when I feel there is something I can add. I call it the “evangelistic wingman” and though I hate talking to strangers, I love doing that.
You see, the church together acts as the body of Jesus. The mouth might be vocal while the little toe doesn’t say a thing, yet both are necessary for the body to be complete and mature. God uses both introverts and extroverts for his glory and kingdom, and he does so in his love for diversity—so let’s also love such diversity.