The problem with introverts, extroverts, and everything in between

The tests, results and funny memes regarding introverts and extroverts are rampant. But what if all of our knowledge in this area wreaks of a greater problem?

The invitation arrived and as I read it a faint sigh escaped my lips. The smallest valve released, almost involuntarily, from somewhere deep.

I recognized it as part of me. The me that doesn’t always love to go to all the places where I don’t know very many of the people. The me that occasionally feels awkward with small talk sometimes feels shy in introductions and at times would just as well stay home. I like home.

Even as a Meyers-Briggs ENTJ, I land softly on the introvert/extrovert scale. I vacillate between whichever suits me best at the moment – outgoing when that feels comfortable and less so when it doesn’t. How convenient, right?

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The experts, whoever they are, have actually constructed a box for my variety. They call us ambiverts – the crossovers who play both sides of the coin. We are simultaneously filled up and poured out by lots of people-ing. It’s harder to tell, even for us, which card we’ll play.

But back to the invite. 

My initial thought was to send my regrets. I had cause and reason. I was in a busy season and home time was (is) precious. Regrets it would be. Done.

That decided, I felt a bit of gratitude. It was nice to be invited, included, thought of. My name had passed someone’s list. Someone had thought it would be nice to have me there and paid the postage to let me know it.

Too bad they didn’t realize they lobbied hard on the introverted side of my ambivertedness (I may have made that word up) which entitled me to my reflexive response. This is me. Right?

But this is precisely where the self-knowledge game begins to leave a metallic taste in my mouth. Sure it is helpful to know my bent, to understand how I best relate, to be aware of my weaknesses and differences and uniqueness. We have downed that knowledge in shot glasses in recent years, wearing it like skin or maybe…armor.

But how do we align that with the image of God skin we are wearing as well?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:12-13

Lay down one’s life? I don’t even want to say yes to a friend’s party. I wonder if God knows about introverts and ambiverts and extroverts with strong introverted tendencies? 

The truth is, He knows my strengths and weaknesses, He formed my inward parts. He created me in His image (Gen 1:27) – the image of the one who was and is and is to come (Rev 1:8). The image of the I AM (Ex 3:14).

The varying strengths of our personalities are fascinating because they reflect collective parts of Him. I understand our interest because it really is quite interesting. However, our fascination must point us to a greater awe of who He is, rather than who we are. 

Our knowledge must not become limiting beliefs that excuse us from the greater call to love others in sometimes (often times?) uncomfortable ways and means. Our understanding of our own bent is not designed to wall us up in a circle of our comfort zone, a tight cocoon of us.

As I sat a bit longer with the invitation I realized all of my discomforts were about me – what I thought, how I would feel, what I had time for. Never once had I thought about honoring my friend, what it might look like to love her well. 

That is embarrassing. And true.

So I offer a small caution, one I need to hear and one I desperately want to live, as we plod on with all the personality tests and quizzes, all the funny introverted/extroverted memes that we share broad and laugh at with friends. I do this as much as anyone. 

Self-knowledge is interesting and can be helpful, but let’s be careful not to own our label at the expense of our greater calling. We are called to love one another, serve one another, lay down our lives, even when it falls outside of our personality type.

When that next invitation arrives I want to be thinking a little more about this, and a little less about me.

In the end, a bold follower of Christ, a woman who lives that well and bravely chooses to love the ones God places in front of her, is the only title worth having anyway.

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This post originally appeared and was republished with permission. 

Katie Westenberg is a wife and mother to four, who is passionate about fighting fear and living brave. Married for 15 years, she lives in Washington state, enjoying life outside the city limits and any adventures that involve friends and family. She writes at encouraging women to fear God and live brave.


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