A shout out (or a whisper of encouragement) to Introverts

In the course of my travels here on earth, I’ve come across and befriended many introverts.  And, being able to relate to their struggles somewhat, I wanted to create this post to gently encourage these special personality types.  Introverts can be hard to get to know, but it’s worth the effort to get to know them.  Here’s to introverts!

Before going into introvert personalities, though, I’d like to give a nod to the extraverts in my life. I know many, and many are my good friends.  I love being with extroverts because they pretty much lead the conversation. Being an introvert myself, I can sit back and listen, not having to talk much.  Extroverts liven a meeting, discussions and parties.  And they are warm-hearted, and open, with nothing to hide.

Introverts are different.  They are a bit more complex, and sometimes misunderstood. In a world generally run by extroverts, if you are an introvert, it’s very easy to get overshadowed.  Introvert’s voices somehow get drowned out by the exuberance of the extroverts.  They sit quietly by, contemplating, and often get criticized for being too shy, soft-spoken, and not having a backbone.  So here are some things to remember that will help you, if you are an introvert, or help friends of the introvert, to better understand these quieter personality types.

Introverts are not weak.  Just because their voices tend to be soft-spoken, does not mean they don’t have a backbone, or don’t know how to speak up.  True, sometimes we get overwhelmed by a situation, or it’s hard to speak up.  But that doesn’t mean we don’t have strong opinions, or will stubbornly stick to something we truly believe in. Introverts have an inner strength that helps them hold on, and a rich, inner world they retreat to if the outside world get too rough.

Introverts need their space.  Introverts have a lot to offer the world.  They think things through carefully and thoroughly (often to a fault), plan things, and try to see all sides of a situation.  Some introverts, who are more connected with their emotions, can connect deeply with others, and get inside their skin.

If an empathetic introvert likes you, and listens to you, you will feel deeply understood and accepted.  But this connection comes at a price.  Because an introvert with empathy can connect so deeply with people, sometimes they can detect when what a person is saying, and how that person is really feeling, is in conflict.  Often they know what a person really means, not just from words (which may not truly convey what the person is really feeling). So don’t be fake with an introvert, especially an empathetic one; be honest and authentic.  They’ll know if you’re not.

Knowing how a person really feels can be dangerous.  The other person may feel the introvert knows too much about them, and may feel uncomfortable, so people are afraid to be friends.  Other times, when someone an introvert cares about is hurting, an introvert hurts too.  It’s like they can feel acutely feel the pain.

At times, I’ve felt like a human salve and suction, drawing out poisonous, dark, and negative feelings in others, by feeling them, being them, being the other person, and as a result, making the other person feel better.  But sometimes it gets to be too much.  For empathetic introverts, like myself, sometimes our systems get too overloaded, and our empathy runs us dry.  Then we need to retreat.

So at times you’ll find us close and loving (the best friend you could ever have) and suddenly,  we’re not their anymore: we’ve withdrawn.  Don’t worry:  we haven’t stopped loving you.  It’s just that — we need to retreat into ourselves to recharge, and to dispel all the negativity that we’ve drawn from others.  We need to process and realign ourselves.  Introverts gain their energy by being alone.  They may love being and interacting with people, but from time to time they need to withdraw and recharge.  So their tolerance of being social with other people appears less than their extraverted counterparts.

Introverts, and particularly the empathetic ones, are nurturers and connectors.  We love giving ourselves away, and healing others.  But sometimes we give ourselves away too much. That is why empathetic introverts are often reminded, by friends who care about them,  to take a break and recharge. Empathetic introverts will, if you let them, give of themselves to the point of breakdown and unhealthiness.  If you have an introverted, empathetic friend who is overworking themselves, remind them to take a break!

Some introverts are serious people.  We think about serious topics, like world problems, the problem of sin, human relationships that have gone awry and need healing, the state of degeneration and depravity in the world at large.  That is why for myself, I really do appreciate the light-hearted and funny extraverts at times.  It breaks me out of my mold of heavy, serious thinking.

Introverts need to hear that they don’t need to perform.  Some introverts, by nature, can be perfectionists. (This may apply to extraverts as well).  These introverts, including myself, need to hear:  “God loves you, He accepts you, He provides rest.  You don’t need to perform. ”  We often don’t hear that enough, so sometimes, even the slightest guilt trip about “not doing enough” can, if  we’re not careful, bring us down a path of anxious “doing” which, at the end of the day, leaves us feeling depleted and bitter.

Empathetic introverts have a natural desire to want to help others.  If you can reach their heart, these people will go to enormous lengths to give unto others.  So don’t crush them, but encourage them, and remind them of God’s love, His deep, abiding love.  Once they are grounded in that, they’ll know how to give in healthy ways without hurting themselves.

Introverts have a dark side.  Introverts, like their extraverted counterparts, can experience negative emotions.  But what makes introverts introverts is how they handle these emotions.  It is a grave mistake to think that just because introverts are soft-spoken, they are too meek to get angry.  On the contrary, close friends and families of introverts can attest to how these quiet folks can, when angry, alter the mood of an entire household.  And, if you’ve ever really crossed a line with an introvert, well, some introverts have dreamed of “poetic justice.”

Many introverts hold in their negative feelings, and won’t express them, hoping that those feeling will dissipate.  Often, it doesn’t.  When those feelings are suppressed enough, with long hours of thought on it (as introverts are apt to do), sooner or later these negative feelings under pressure become a veritable Mount Vesuvius.

So, if you are an introvert who has difficulty expressing negative feelings, try to find ways to express what bothers you before they build up into a huge pressure cooker.  Speak up . . .  let the other person know . . . or write.  And, if you’re friends of the introvert, make it safe for these people to let off steam.  Give them safe opportunities for them to tell you what’s bothering them.

In conclusion, God made each of us unique, with our unique personalities, likes, dislikes, and way of processing things.  There is no “better” personality type, but God delights in each person he has made.

In the Bible, one of my favorite character is John, who wrote the gospel of John.  He was, undoubtedly, a writer, and my guess is he was an introvert too.  I imagine him quietly contemplating things, and maybe, at times, getting quite angry too.

Then there’s Peter. I imagine him being exuberant, and passionate, and rushing into things without thinking twice.  Maybe even quickly losing his temper, but just as quickly forgetting about it.  Jesus loved them both, and I’m pretty sure that, whether you’re an introvert or extravert, He feels the same way about you.  Whether you’re an introvert or extravert, you are, in Jesus’ eyes, very special and beloved indeed.

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