Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Introversion vs. Selfishness

"I can't people today."

"A group of people is called a 'no thanks'."

"Netflix and avoid people."

"I can't talk to you today. I talked to two people yesterday."

If you spend a fair amount of time browsing introvert-related memes on the internet, you'll encounter some like these. As an introvert myself, I appreciate the recent research and effort directed to understanding introversion. Some of my favorite people are introverts. But the attitude behind these memes saddens and frustrates me.

There's absolutely nothing immoral about deriving energy from being alone, but there is something immoral about selfishness. Just because selfishness sometimes masquerades as introversion doesn't make it okay. 

I want to acknowledge that being an introvert can be really, really hard. For me, "the worst" is being with a large group of strangers. I often avoid sports events, big-group barbecues, wedding receptions, parties, and basically anywhere with a lot of people and a lot of noise. I'd almost always enjoy watching Star Wars at home over meeting new people over a meal.

But while such activities may not be fun, that doesn't mean I can skip them. Sometimes it's necessary to attend a wedding reception to show love to a friend, or the friend of your family. It's reasonable to not enjoy it, but that doesn't always excuse not doing it.

As introverts, I think it's easy to present our preferences as needs or inabilities. "I can't do big groups." "I have to stay home from church in order to recharge."

Yes, sometimes you need to recharge. Do that Downton Abbey marathon or set aside an evening without social commitments. But sometimes you need to step out of yourself and into your brothers and sisters in Christ, or the unbelievers to whom we are called to evangelize.

The Bible emphasizes fellowship and community and the benefits of friendship. In fact, the New Testament is saturated with commandments concerning our interactions with each other in the body of Christ.

As much as I recognize and can personally attest to the difficulty and discomfort introverts experience to make and sustain friendships, I believe it's a grave mistake to overlook opportunities to cultivate God-honoring relationships with fellow humans.

I mentioned earlier that some of my favorite people are introverts. Without their willingness to push the comfort zones of their personality, I couldn't say that. Without introverts ready to expend the necessary energy friendships require, I'd be out a lot of friends.

If extroverts are fairly asked to refrain from pushing the energy levels of their introvert friends, introverts can be fairly asked to sometimes sacrifice their inclinations to encourage extroverts. This may include opening your home to others, sitting next to the new kid at school, or engaging your talkative friend.

Don't neglect church attendance, pass by cultivating God-honoring friendships, or blow off ministry in the name of introversion.

 We live in a world of personality diversity. People who fear public speaking and people who avoid phone calls. People who hate social interaction and people who desperately want friends.  People who listen to country music and people who listen to opera. And all sinners, by the way.

Extroverts can be just as selfish as introverts and vice versa.

Until Jesus comes, we're not going to find a state of perfect coexistence. There will always be misunderstanding and drama and damaged friendships. But if we-- introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts alike-- daily battle our own selfishness, I think we'll be a lot closer.