William B. Bowes on Here’s How Churches Can Make Space for Introverts

Our society celebrates extroverts. It is no secret that the broader culture is kinder to the gregarious, bubbly, life-of-the-party type than it is to more reserved and quiet ones among us. Just ask any introvert you know – many of us have spent many years wishing that we were more chatty and entertaining and less soft-spoken or introspective. Many of us have believed that we would be happier if we were more natural in a crowd, or if it did not take so much time to get to know us. Scientific studies have even shown that extroverts tend to report feeling happier than introverts for sociocultural reasons: because society celebrates the extroverted, they feel more welcome, more comfortable, and more positive. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to feel inferior and out of place.

Lamentably, this way of thinking is shared by many Christians. I know and have counseled many believers who despise the introverted experience. They feel a sense of guilt for needing time alone, and many even simply learn how to fake acting extroverted as often as the situation requires it. I can resonate with them. Learning to be comfortable with my own personality and needs as an introvert has been a years-long journey of learning to accept and embrace that being introverted is part of the way God designed me, and so many others like me.

William B. Bowes is a Mental Health Counselor in Boston, Massachusetts. | Courtesy of William B. Bowes

To be introverted is a matter of personality, and as such it is necessarily complex. Not all introverts would come off as quiet or shy. Some would be more reserved than others, and some even become more or less reserved with time. But all introverts share at least a few things in common: they need time away from others to recharge and process, they are typically on the more observant than they are assertive, and they generally prefer deep connection rather than small-talk or surface level interactions. There is much more to being introverted than that, but it is usually not less than that.

Although there is no direct biblical category for these sorts of personality distinctions, there has long been an awareness that some people simply communicate differently. Even as far back as Genesis 25:27, Jacob is called “a quiet man”, and contrasted with the more adventurous Esau, who was favored by his father. Today, while it may not be so openly expressed, many introverts feel that there is no difference between the church and the outside world when it comes to valuing extroversion more than introversion. So how do we address this? And how can we begin to create a new culture that values different personality types equally?

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SOURCE: Christian Post, William B. Bowes