There is power in a name.
The right name can be liberating – the means of gaining access to certain privileges or excusing us from others. The wrong name, however, can function as a kind of portable iron maiden – a narrative we feel powerless to escape.
Perhaps no name is more celebrated today then ‘The Introvert.’ Books have been written, podcasts recorded, and whole facebook pages crafted in honor of this increasingly populated demographic. Viewed from one angle, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s just a fact that some of us thrive on frequent social excursions while other (like myself) recharge through extended periods of staring out a window.
But increasingly it feels as if what I’m going to call the “introverted narrative” has reached the point where even professing Christians seem to see it as an infallible rule of life (i.e., I cannot be understood apart from my introversion). There are several problems with this however, which I will now fling into the air with reckless abandon.
You Are Not Safe Alone
Some people are convinced that, contrary to the old adage, there is danger in numbers. After all, if you only ever stay with your lil’ old self, you don’t have to get hurt, right? And if you simply avoid those social settings which may potentially reveal your deficiencies, it can be easy to exist under the pretense of wholeness.
The problem is that it isn’t actually safe to be always, only, surrounded by your own voice. What’s the danger? The danger, as any wild-eyed, gopher-skinned hermit will attest, is that if you do it long enough, you acclimatize to loneliness to the point where the thought of being around others will seem unnatural. And if you were lost in a desolate wilderness, how absurd would it be to take comfort in the sound of your own, rebounding, “hello?”
As it concerns Christians, the verdict is inescapable. Our mandate is not a musky cave in a wasteland somewhere. The only promise for those who insist on functional isolation is that we will wither spiritually – and the only remedy we are given against sin’s deception is by “encouraging one another every day.” (Heb. 3:3)
Introversion is Always a Bad Master
It’s one thing to have a drink, but there is an ominous finality to being called ‘a drunk.’ Similarly, when we give ourselves the title of ‘introvert’, is it any wonder we feel powerless to change? We can’t host that dinner, we can’t help that cause, we can’t go to that service. We will never change, it’s just who we are.
But is it?
Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” If being introverted means you are not free to be obedient, then be sure you are a slave to someone else (even if it’s yourself.)
Self-Pity’s Web of Lies
At the end of the day, self-pity is just gaudy pride dressed up in filthy overalls. It says, “I am too complex for people” or, “I can’t be around others who don’t understand and appreciate me.” It refuses to see outside of its own little bubble and revels in its perceived inscrutability.
But is this a legitimate narrative for the Christian? Let’s remind ourselves of Jesus’ attitude “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant.”
Did you hear that? The only One who could ever claim legitimate uniqueness gave it all up to become an especially un-noteworthy one of us.
Feelings are Unreliable Guides
Before being informed I was un-publishable, I was in the midst of writing a story about a young boy lost in a forest leashed to a little heart that was constantly trying to destroy him. Here’s a free bit of fortune cookie wisdom to tuck in your tube sock: “Untrained feelings will usually lead you toward cliff edges.”
It is at least consistent, if terrifying, to be driven by pure instinct within an atheistic worldview, but why is it that so many who profess freedom in Christ willingly indenture themselves to the same master?
That shut-in we know we should visit. That co-worker we know we should talk to. That service we know we should attend. The neighbor we know we should love. The commission we know applies to us. These are the right bower cards, and they always, without exception, trump whatever feelings or narratives we find ourselves vortexing into.
Spurgeon was convinced that opening the windows of his church would revive and awaken the drowsy hearts of his hearers. Let’s imagine what would happen if we opened the windows of a dusty inner life to the light and fresh air of self-forgetfulness? The moment we realize we no longer need to be dragged around by our desires day in and day out (Titus 3:3), may also be a moment of incredible freedom.
So the next time you want to flee into the wilderness, let that Word above all earthly powers steady and anchor you.
Remember, in heaven, there will be no introverts.