Introvert defined: people whose energy tends to expand through reflection a dwindle during interaction. Introverts tend to be more reserved and less outspoken in groups. They often take pleasure in solitary activities.Trust is usually an issue of significance: a virtue of utmost importance to an introvert is choosing a worthy companion.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way lets move on. Sometime last year, I was watching Star-Trek Next Generation with a friend (yes, I’m cool, I know). There was an episode where a Vulcan Ambassador (for those who know not of the Vulcan…they are a hyper rational/logical extra-terrestrials who have evolved past the point of indulging in emotion) beams aboard the Enterprise to hold a diplomatic meeting with a reclusive alien species. The ambassador is well known and respected. Immediately Jean-Luc (commander of the ship) notices something is amiss with the vulcan diplomat. Eventually it is discovered that the ambassador is suffering from an infliction of old age, he is loosing control over his emotions (something which is shameful to Vulcan kind) . In order to save the day Jean-Luc must mind-meld (the Vulcan process of transferring memories and emotions to another being) with the ambassador. Cut to… Jean-Luc experiencing how the Vulcan actually thought and felt. We see the ships captain suddenly incredulous that he should be so driven by his emotions and not his rationality and logic. Then even more violently he is sobbing like a child at the thought that is wife and kids never knew how much he truly loved them. On and on the emotions go, up and down. I relay this to you to say this, as I’m watching I think to my self, “man, maybe I’m part Vulcan”. That is to say, in my introverted nature I conduct my life in much the same way. The difference being I do not possess the skill of mind-melding so that others might experience the depth of my reliance on rationality and logic to which I cleave, and the haunting fear that it cloaks the breadth of my compassion, empathy, and love of others.
For most, it wouldn’t take more than a day of observing my behavior to ascertain (with little effort) that I am an introvert in the highest degree. Interestingly though, I would not say I have always been one. I believe my family and a few other’s who knew me well oh so long ago would agree that as a child I was very extroverted. In fact I was extroverted to the point of doing nothing less than tap-dancing on tabletops amid a myriad of strangers to gain notice of others.
If I were to take a stab at narrowing down when the transition from extrovert to introvert occurred I’d say it was somewhere around 6th or 7th grade. You know, when puberty and its resulting hyper self-awareness and self-deprecation came down like a tidal wave around me. Suddenly and without warning, I was always so certain I was being slandered when out of earshot for my shortcomings. I wasn’t pretty like her, smart like him, musically or athletically gifted like them. Afraid to impose on anyone for fear of making my flaws even more visible to my peers. Now I was much more comfortable in my mind and so I retreated into myself as though my thoughts were a sanctuary which could shield my from my ever-imposing surroundings.
Often I consider what my life might have been like had I remained an extrovert, if I had not retreated into myself. Who would I be? What paths would I have taken? What abilities would have developed differently? How would God have used me? Would I be happier? Would I be lonelier? Would I be essentially the same person?
Please, don’t misconstrue my words as those issued from someone unsatisfied or unhappy with their life. Everyday God shows me something, sometimes big sometimes small, that assures me how blessed I am and have been. In being an introvert God has given me great insight into many things. Finding so much comfort in reflection has granted me with the ability to find great meaning in small things, reassurances in unlikely places, the capability to deeply mediate on God’s word, and a strong sense for interpreting peoples character through keen observation of word and deed. All of these “introverted skills” have led me to greater things; finding and maintaing deep and lasting friendships, understanding the intricacies of scripture, developing a deep pool of emotion to draw from, taking joy wherever I find it, developing a purpose driven life. I enjoy and am unashamed of being an introvert.
I think I can speak (with relative certainty) on behalf of the introverted community at large and say the following is true of us as a collective. An introverts biggest fear, regret, uncertainty (and every other synonym for a state of contrition) is how they are understood and interpreted by those around them. How will others undertand our introversion? Will they think we are bored or above-it-all to speak, to interject into the conversation? Will they equate our lackluster enthusiasm for get-togethers with our level of care and consideration for them? Will our tendency to shield our true emotions be understood as contempt, arrogance, piety or worst of all indifference? Will be be abandoned after being consistently observed as unresponsive? Will our introversion be too large a wall to scale to truly get to know us?
Which now brings me to my final word, one of counsel to those on find themselves on either side of the fence.
If you are an introvert yourself I council trust. We all have a place in this world introverted and extroverted alike. We bring different but equally needed things to the table. Trust your instincts. Trust that there are those who will be patient enough to stick around and scale the wall. Trust that extroverts can have introverted friends (some of the best friends I’ve ever had were true to the core extroverts). Trust that an extrovert can respect and be empathetic to your introverted tendencies. Trust that worthy companions will be found. Trust that God can use your introversion. Trust.
If you are an extrovert I council patience. Be patient when the only thing you’re getting from an introvert is a shrug of the shoulders, or a nod of the head words will be forthcoming (sometimes in abundance) when you’ve proven yourself trustworthy. Be patient when the introvert continually declines invitations to gathering, eventually we’ll go despite our inclinations, for one we can trust. Be patience when developing a relationship, it’s worth it in the end (we do make very loyal and devout companions). Be patient when we are in our hyper-reflection mode, we may emerge with profound new perspectives that will be worth the wait. Be patient when it seems like they’re just not that into you, chances are the more introverted we become the more interested we are and are simply struggling with the risk of allowing ourselves to be more involved thus granting you access into our very sacred inner-world. Be patient.
I hope these words were both informative and instructive… and to hope above hope that they might have provided encouragement to any who dane to read my drivel. God bless you all, just the way you are!