Faith

To my fellow Christian extroverts: The struggle is real, I know

by Joanne Kwok // January 11, 2017, 10:57 am

Extrovert

An extrovert’s response to To my fellow Christian introverts: The struggle is real, I know

Because, like, extroverts need time alone with Jesus too

Is it just me, or does everyone want to be an introvert nowadays? Even the introverts have noticed. Like cats and other cute animals, the Internet loves them. A quick Google unearths some real-life evidence: How to Care for Your Introvert. 6 Illustrations That Show What It’s Like in an Introvert’s Head. 23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert (clearly written by an extrovert).

Being an extrovert doesn’t seem to have quite the same draw. Maybe it’s the lack of mystery, that quiet aura of the unspoken and the hidden. Introversion is the perfect flavour for the social media generation – an attractive blend of thoughtfulness, stability and intrigue. Extroverts? Predictable. Everything’s already out there on display – right?

You know the score as well as I do. Extroverts are energised by people; introverts drained. Extroverts find it easier to express themselves; introverts stay in their own heads. Extroverts do well in church settings. Introverts feel out of place in big groups – church has plenty of big groups … and plenty of extroverts, everywhere you look.

You see, dear introverts, most of the extroverts you know aren’t more confident or self-assured than you. We’re simply better at hiding our true selves.

We extroverts are the ones on stage. Greeters at the door. Ushers. Minglers. Testimony givers. Didn’t the Bible remind believers to come together often (Hebrews 10:25)? No problem! Share life and encourage each other constantly? Sure! Unlike the introverts sitting silently in the sanctuary, waiting to run home once service ends, this Christian community thing comes naturally to us.
Or so they say.

Christian Introverts may suffer from the overwhelming social activity church presents, but Christian Extroverts – outgoing, passionate and charming – may be at risk of something more devious: The double life.

While introverts are expected to have unspoken treasures lying beneath the surface, extroverts are seen as open books. That could not be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, no one is looking for that truth – no one even thinks it’s there.

Extroverts are so misunderstood. So, to help you, and to help us, here’s …

THE INTROVERTS’ GUIDE TO EXTROVERTS

1. We don’t want to be in the spotlight – not all the time

Under pressure, extroverts are the first to rise to the occasion. We’re often the centre of attention. We talk smooth.

But energy and theatrics are veneers.

If only you knew: I struggle with real and debilitating body image issues. And now the world watches me.

Spoken at TEDx conferences? Been there done that. Twice.

But I’ve never watched my recordings. It’s too painful. I hate the thought of being captured on film and tagged on social media. I may thrive in the spotlight, but there my insecurities are amplified and replayed to me in deafening screams. My hands literally shake. Untag. Delete.

You see, dear introverts, most of the extroverts you know aren’t more confident or self-assured than you. We’re simply better at hiding our true selves.

Extroverts will continue being pushed into positions of prominence in church due to the common misconception that we love the limelight. Leading, speaking, performing and befriending.

We likely aren’t any more gifted or equipped for these roles than introverts are – just much bigger targets for falling arrows.

2. We need time alone – especially with God 

Social butterfly. Life of the party. Everybody’s best friend. Such labels we know too well. If socialising supposedly drains the Introvert and charges the Extrovert – then we must talk about over-charging.

Extroverts are terrible at unplugging.

(For example: Why do you think your local extroverts keep checking up on you if you’re quiet? Why can’t they keep quiet, even if you’re sad and want to be alone? Here’s why: If an extrovert is quiet, something’s wrong. And if something’s wrong, they’d want to talk about it. So they’d expect everyone to be the same and desire the same treatment. It’s how they love. Call it the extrovert’s empathy.)

Unfortunately, without installed circuit-breakers, overcharged batteries risk going flat, fast.

In His ministry, Jesus hung out with crowds of all sizes, preaching, teaching, healing. But He often slipped away in solitude – not even with His closest disciples – to rest in His Father’s presence.

Us extroverts need that too. Our crowd too easily drowns out our Good Shepherd’s voice. Our inner man is neglected, our soul’s garden withers.

We rarely realise it, but we need to unplug. Remind us gently if you start seeing sparks. 

3. We’re not always doing great – even if we appear to be fine

“I had no idea you were having a hard time all this while, you always looked so happy!”

It’s the danger of the double life we live. Extroverts know the right words. We create the right noise. We keep comfortable, controlled conversations going – small talk, big talk. People think they know us. We think we know ourselves.

As we create personas to blend seamlessly into every social group, we can gradually lose sight of who we really are. But when we’re alone, our inner turbulence springs forth like Old Faithful. Questions of identity, security and purpose scald our minds, our souls tormented by deep frustrations and gnawing regrets. (Remember Point #1?)

But at sunrise, we quickly learn to sweep these things under the rug. We don our shiny masks and return to the world, no more healed we were than the night before. Mr Hyde turns back into Dr Jekyll – and Dr Jekyll won’t be talking (or thinking much) about Mr Hyde. Neither will most of his large circle of friends know Mr Hyde even exists, or stop to think that he might. Dr Jekyll always looks so happy.

But is he?

EXTROVERTED, BUT NOT SELF-SUFFICIENT

We may be natural connectors, advocators,  communicators – ever reaching out, ever-ready to talk – but a friend to the world need friends too. While we’re happy to be conversation starters and shoulders to cry on, we’re also notoriously good at distracting ourselves (and our brothers and sisters in Christ, sorry about that!) with the loudness of our lives.

The struggles are drowned out. Messes are left in growing heaps … until they start to fester and spill into our conscious thoughts, words and actions. All of a sudden, we’re in dire need of help, and we’ve never really been on this end of the friendship before.

How’s the condition of your heart? As an extrovert, the question always frightened me – because I don’t know.

Extroverts need to be reached out to, too.

Someone used to ask me every now and then: How’s the condition of your heart? 

As an extrovert, the question always frightened me – because I don’t know. The heart on our sleeves doesn’t look like the one beating inside.

So friends of extroverts, hush us if you must. But love us nonetheless – with grace, with truth. Help lower the volume of our life.

Hold a mirror to our inner man. We might look like role model Christians but deep inside, we’re just like you. Same struggles, insecurities and needs, just differently expressed.

Only God sees our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). So when we’re caught up and running on empty, point us to the Gardener of our souls (Psalm 139:23). We’d appreciate it. We need it.

But for now, did I mention Jesus really knew how to throw a party too (John 2:1-11)?

About the author

Joanne Kwok

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.