When I was attending a Christian ministry conference in the early 90’s, a guy with a scruffy white beard and a well-defined black comb-over was presenting at one of the workshop sessions. I can’t remember his name. He was talking about the dangers of pastoral ministry burnout, and he also had the letters PHD associated with him. For those two reasons, I attended the workshop.
In my experience, when you teach at a workshop, you can be really really good. Most workshop leaders are good. This guy was okay. But I remember him saying one life-changing thing about our basic core personalities. I’m misquoting him, but I think it’s worth the potential lawsuit to get this point across.
He said, “Extroverts are people who need to spend time with others in order to get recharged. Introverts are people who need to spend time alone in order to get recharged.”
EXTROVERTS ARE PEOPLE WHO NEED TO SPEND TIME WITH OTHERS IN ORDER TO GET RECHARGED. INTROVERTS ARE PEOPLE WHO NEED TO SPEND TIME ALONE TO GET THE SAME BENEFIT.
And then he asked us: “Where do you go to get recharged? Do you run to people, or do you run to some alone space?”
Because I was a pastor, I wanted to be able to call myself an extrovert. I unintentionally believed that acting like an extrovert was some weird and unspoken part of a pastor’s job description. And most of the best pastors I listened to were definitely extroverts. At least they looked like that when they were behind the pulpit. And to make it way more difficult, in the workshop I was sitting next to my senior pastor, who was an extreme extrovert.
I wrote the word “introvert” on one of the five blank pages in the back of the three-ring conference binder, drew an oblong shape around the word, and then wrote the word “Me!”, with the exclamation point. And I didn’t show it to anyone.
I think for much of my life, I’ve been hiding the introvert in the blank pages that I don’t invite anyone else to see. I think that I’m really a fake extrovert.
I AM A FAKE EXTROVERT.
I tend to thrive on a stage when I’m speaking in front of people. I love those moments when I feel like something I’m saying is actually penetrating into the hearts of real people. Then after my talk, I really enjoy meeting people individually, I love that one-on-one time because I love the people I’m talking with. I love their stories, and I love the Jesus I see in them. These are holy moments for both of us, and I don’t take them lightly.
But when I get into the car and drive away, I literally cannot wait to get back into a private space where I can change into some old gym shorts, put on a t-shirt that may or may not accentuate my embarrassing upper torso regions, and just be alone.
This is where I breathe again.
This is where I smile.
And fall asleep on the couch with the remote in my hand, and with spittle on my chin.
This moment carries with it an added measure of beauty for me, mostly because who I am doesn’t matter. Who I think people perceive me to be doesn’t matter. I don’t buy into any hype because there’s no real hype to buy into. I’m just a guy flipping the channels until I find something that will help me fall asleep for a power nap. After spending time lecturing, then talking to people, I am more than ready to completely collapse.
Here’s what being an introvert doesn’t mean:
- It doesn’t mean that I don’t think I need anyone. I need and desire people to be around me, and that never leaves.
- It doesn’t mean that when I’m with you, I’m secretly dreaming of being alone. Well… it may mean that, but it’s because there’s too much weird or awkward, not because I’m in introvert. And I’m probably the one adding the weird or awkward – I’m quite certain of it.
- It doesn’t mean that I’m not a talker. To the contrary, I can be exceedingly chitty-chatty. Just ask my friends.
- It doesn’t mean that I’m not relational. Quite the opposite, actually. Some of the most relational people I know are introverts, and some of the most non-relational people I know are extroverts. The ability to be caring and listening and funny and wise has nothing to do with these introvert/extrovert labels.
- It doesn’t mean that I have any excuse to not live my life in a community of love and accountability.
- It doesn’t mean that I sequester myself to a home office all day long and disengage with the people around me and then, in any way using any words that form together to seem like some logical excuse, call that “good”.
But the point of this post is this – God made me this way. God created me to fill the tank by being alone, not by being with others 24/7. And that’s true whether I admit it or not. And as I get older, I realize that it’s really good to admit it, accept it, then implement it.
GOD MADE ME THIS WAY WHETHER I ADMIT IT OR NOT.
And all of us – every single person breathing and reading and reacting – simply must stop acting like we’re somebody else, just to fit into a label that we’ve mind-created as “better” or “more appropriate”, all the while sacrificing the very essence of who we really are.
Because think about it – If we don’t get this right, we’ll never give water to the hoarse and dry voice that expresses itself in the very deepest heart cry possible. And if we never fully replenish in that way, we never rest.
IF WE DON’T GET THIS INTROVERT VS. EXTROVERT THING ACCURATELY IDENTIFIED AND FULLY EMBRACED, WE NEVER REST.
When I started writing this post, I was viewing it as a brief and funny explanation of why some of us are the way we are. That’s why I started it with the funny story about the comb-over guy. But as I’ve pressed through the creation of these now-almost finished words, I’m seeing the serious turn it’s taken. And I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be, simply because there’s a lot at stake here. Resting our racing minds is key to experiencing any fulfillment in this life.
RESTING OUR RACING MINDS AND BRINGING PEACE TO OUR RESTLESS HEARTS IS KEY TO EXPERIENCING ANY KIND OF FULFILLING LIFE THAT WE’RE CHASING.
And maybe that’s why you’re so worn out all the time. Maybe it’s tied, at least in part, to the reality of always trying to be someone you’re not, and to trying to convince those around you that you’re someone you’re not, and to trying to convince the beautiful soul in the mirror that you’re someone you’re not. And maybe that insane battle is depleting you from ever truly recharging your own soul.
Maybe your constant and unintended unwillingness to accept who God made you to be is killing you.
This is not a fight that needs to be ongoing. This is not a battle that needs a re-engagement every day. And this most certainly is not something that you need to just “try harder” at overcoming. This is actually very simple, and can literally be a one-time crucifixion of any false self you’ve created.
And then on with your life.
Because isn’t that what’s really at stake here? Isn’t that what’s always at stake in every big and important and significant invitation from His Spirit?