Quietly Faithful: Just get over it!

By Stephen R. Clark

by Danielle Dolin

Over the years, introversion has gotten a bad rap, especially in the church. Introverts were viewed as shy, timid, fearful, and a bunch of other not-so-flattering adjectives. Sadly, that’s still the case.

I recently read an article by a pastor/leader that was placed in a prominent online ministry journal. The overall message was intended to encourage congregants to be welcoming to newcomers. A noble and valid topic.

However, the author was specifically addressing those who leaned toward reticence. Those who found it challenging to put themselves out to say hello to strangers. His remedy? He told them to just “get over it.”

In the article he implies those who don’t greet as being cold and unfriendly. He also uses timid, shy, and introvert as synonyms.

Where to begin!?

Introversion is not something to just “get over”

No one ever likes to be told to “just get over it” no matter what “it” is. For introverts (and extroverts) this isn’t even possible. These are traits that are hard-wired into us. While an introvert can choose to act in what are viewed as extroverted ways, we will always be an introvert. Science is on our side, too.

In her book, The Introvert Advantage, Dr, Marti Olsen Laney devotes several pages, with illustrations, explaining the complex physical differences between introverts and extroverts. These involve differences in blood-flow to the brain as well as differing chemical triggers. In short, introverts have longer neural pathways and respond more positively to acetylchlorine rather than dopamine/adrenaline. We can’t just “get over” the unique ways God has fearfully and wonderfully made us. Nor should we try.

Introversion is not the same as timidity and shyness

When it comes to timidity and shyness, these are not characteristics of introverts. They are behaviors, often fear-based, that anyone can exhibit, even extroverts. The fear behind these can be multifaceted and vary from person to person. These are indeed behaviors and states of mind that can be overcome and managed. But even the most extroverted extrovert can be challenged by shyness or timidity. The terms are not at all synonymous with introversion.

Introversion is not an ailment

I shared my thoughts in an email with the author of the article. He still didn’t get it. His response referred to introversion as a “condition.” Viewing introversion this way feeds the wrong idea that introversion is something one can and should “cure.” Introversion is not an ailment that needs fixing.

Thinking wrongly of introversion as a condition or ailment implies that introverts are somehow – in comparison to extroverts – broken, damaged, not-quite-right. It comes from our cultural bias toward extroversion. Churches love extroverted leaders – particularly in the roles of worship and youth leaders. Yet it’s been shown over and over that quiet leaders can be just as effective as not-so-quiet leaders.

Introverts are a gift to the body of Christ

God has created introverts and extroverts to be different for a reason. Extroverts make wonderful, outgoing greeters. Introverts are essential to behind-the-scenes stability. Given that the gifts of the Holy Spirit vary and that each believer has a unique calling, forcing everyone into a single role isn’t scriptural and doesn’t even make sense. We honor God’s creative intentions when we respect the differences each of us brings to his church.

Next week, we’ll look at why all of this is important.

Agree? Disagree? Have a question about this column? Email Stephen at cnjintrovert@gmail.com. Share your thoughts about being a Christian introvert!

Stephen R. Clark is a writer who lives in Lansdale, PA with his wife, BethAnn, where they are members of Immanuel Church. His website is www.StephenRayClark.com. He is a member of the Evangelical Press Association and managing editor of the Christian Freelance Writers Network blog. He is also a news writer for The Baptist Paper and contributor to the Englewood Review of Books. His writing has appeared in several publications. The content of this column is copyright © by Stephen R. Clark.

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