“My brother-in-law is a good guy, I guess, but he’s an introvert.”
“The quiet guy from next door who killed his family was an introvert.”
Here’s a summary of the differences between introverts and extroverts:
- Introverts are less outgoing, talkative, enthusiastic and energetic, than extroverts.
- Introverts are more oriented to the world of their minds; extroverts are more focused on the external environment. Introverts never get a break from thinking and they can wear themselves out, just by thinking.
- Extroverts thrive on being around other people. They love social gatherings, parties, etc. and work well in groups. Introverts thrive in seclusion.
- Extroverts are energized by other people. Introverts are energized by other people as well, but not for long. After a couple of hours at a party something within them is screaming to escape the noise and go home.
- Introverts can enjoy an almost endless amount of time spent alone. They are more easily aroused by input and are therefore more easily overwhelmed by external stimulation. They come home from a two-hour party and lie awake for three hours processing all the input!
The truth be told, many pastors are God-designed, God-called introverts in what the world considers an extrovert’s job.
Here’s a bare-bones version of the introverted pastor’s survival tips which I shared last week.
- Recognize that if God made you more introverted than extroverted, He made you that way for a reason.
- Embrace the advantages of being an introverted pastor. I mentioned a strong desire for time alone with God, your patience for the quiet process of prayer, your love for long hours studying the Scriptures and your careful, informed decision-making.
- Accept the fact that your calling demands that you “act like an extrovert” for a certain number of hours per week. My next tip will take us deeper into this subject:
- Work at developing and expressing positive emotions. We introverts have been found to be neurologically less receptive to positive stimuli. (This might be why I love thrillers and detective shows and disdain “light” entertainment.) We’re naturally good at the character trait which the King James Bible called “grave” (I Timothy 3:7). Here’s what you can do:
- Pursue joy – Years ago I was given a performance review that ranked me low on the characteristic of joy. I knew where to turn: the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. I made it my own, and God “grew joy” in my heart and life.
- Work at over-expressing your positive emotions. I’m not saying you should be phony. I’m suggesting that your own perception of the exuberance of your expression of positive emotions might be considerably different from how others see you. The introverted pastor thinks he’s being positively bubbly while others see him as barely breaking out of his usual, stuffed-shirt demeanor. Ask people about this. They just might tell you how they actually see you.
- Ask God (often) to help you to have fun, or at least look like you’re having fun. The problem is that we introverts don’t even value fun. Fun just isn’t much fun for us. But if we’re going to model a Christianity that people will want, we have to let them see that we’re experiencing joy (Galatians 5:22) and an abundant life (John 10:10). You don’t want to look like a cover photo for the Book of Lamentations.
- Hang out with a tribe of pastors who are more positive than negative. There are many pastor-clusters out there (I call them, “pastor-pow-wows”) which are dominated by negative, sarcastic, members. There are also entire denominational tribes which are dominated by negativity. It was a great thing for me twenty years ago when God led me to a more positive, optimistic, less sarcastic Christian tribe.
- Learn how to communicate the love you feel for people. While struggling with raising a difficult child, my wife and I learned the importance of communicating love in a language that is understood by children. Ross Campbell’s How To Really Love Your Child taught us about focused attention, physical contact and eye contact.
A few years later, a difficult church member accused me of not loving my church members. The veteran elder who was with me insisted that I did indeed love our people, to which my antagonist replied, “Then he needs to learn how to show it!” She was right.
It’s not easy for introverts, and we have to be careful with the “physical contact” part of that formula, but there’s no limit to how good we can get at communicating love with focused attention and eye contact and you don’t even have to say anything to do this.
Next week: More survival tips for introverted pastors. We can do this by the grace of God!