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I Married an Introvert

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I’m definitely an extrovert. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be the loudest person in the room (although sometimes I am), but I definitely love being around people. The idea of a quiet night alone in the apartment doesn’t sound relaxing. It sounds like prison. In contrast, staying up late and talking with friends is the kind of thing that energizes me. It’s my very definition of rest.
In my senior year of college, our dorm was the room where everyone else gathered. We would have guests in our living room well past midnight. On more than one occasion, I walked in to find random freshmen sleeping on our couch. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. When my professors would lecture about the importance of Christian community and the church, it always resonated with me. It felt assuring of who I am as a follower of Christ.

Opposites Attract

Holly and I are proof that opposites attract. My Monday nights off include hanging out with the guys in our Sunday School class. Holly’s Tuesday nights off include a heavy blanket, the TV remote, our couch, and some chocolate. I’m fairly convinced she would even get rid of me for the night if she could. While she enjoys our friends, social activity drains her. Forget buying her “just because” roses. I win husband of the year by simply taking Caleb and leaving for a few hours after a rough day.

As you’d imagine, this is the most common point of tension in our marriage. As a minister, it has been particularly difficult. While I’ve enjoyed the social interaction that comes with ministry, I’m often reminded of my need to protect Holly and respect her desire for personal space. This has sometimes meant being sensitive when she is “peopled out,” as she describes it. While difficult, I don’t regret this dynamic because it challenges each of us in positive ways. I challenge Holly to give in to edifying community while she challenges me to get alone, shut up, and relax.

Introverts in the Church

I’ve come to the realization that the same tension playing out in our marriage can be found in churches across America. Extroverts are often natural leaders because it lines up with their passions. But when your entire church staff is extroverted, the introverts are left without representation. They’re often challenged to be bold and share their faith with others, even held guilty for finding it so difficult. But it’s not the sharing their faith that’s so hard for them. It’s the talking with others that sounds miserable. However, that doesn’t stop us extroverts from carelessly praising the Sunday school teachers, the social organizers, or the guy who miraculously shared his faith with 50 people last week. Meanwhile, we ignore the introverts doing the thankless jobs in the shadows. In fact, the introverts are often modeling true servant leadership in ways that extroverts would find miserable.

We have to be mindful of the introverts around us and be grateful for them. Holly doesn’t speak often about serious matters but when she does, it’s always profound. It would be a crime to miss it. She serves in the background. She has used her talent for graphic design in every church we’ve joined. She takes amazing pictures at special events and gladly helps out without seeking any attention for herself. She wouldn’t even want it if she received it. Most people haven’t ever known my wife’s contributions to the churches where I’ve served because she has been so quiet about it.

There is likely much more I could say about this subject but I’ll keep it short and leave you with this. I love my introvert who stealthily leads without any recognition. If you’re a Christian introvert, don’t give into feelings of guilt for not being more outgoing or finding community so daunting. God carefully designed you and your personality. You model Christlikeness in significant ways. Don’t feel discounted or displaced when extroverted preachers lovingly challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. We don’t necessarily understand you but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Discuss: Introverts, what is something you wish every extrovert would understand about you?

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  • Andrew

    Nice post, Matt. I’m interested to see what people post – I really can’t speak to your discussion question. :)

    • Matt

      Thanks Andrew! It’s funny, I’m getting lots of comments but they are all on Facebook or Twitter. I think there is a lot more that could be said on the subject. I hope you and Sarah are doing well!

    • http://www.mattmorrison.org/ Matt Morrison

      Thanks Andrew! It’s funny, I’m getting lots of comments but they are all on Facebook or Twitter. I think there is a lot more that could be said on the subject. I hope you and Sarah are doing well!

  • Brian Keen

    I love this. I am an a big introvert. It’s honestly been hard at times to work with my church or a church. A lot of churches expect you to be an extrovert and willing to speak to anyone at any given moment. It’s a pain. When it comes to me, I understand the necessity of growth. I will always be an introvert and enjoy solitude, but there are times when it is necessary to speak out. Extroverts really just need patience when it comes to us. You won’t be able to force us to speak out. Allow us to have our solitude and then at the right times, our words will blow you away!

    • http://www.mattmorrison.org/ Matt Morrison

      I know what you mean, Brian. Its good to see introvert rising up in the ranks! Aside from showing that you can step out of your comfort zone to answer the call to ministry, it gives that perspective among church leaders that’s lacking. I hope things are going well for you. I’m excited to see what God will do in your life. Thanks for commenting!

  • RickB

    My wife is an introvert. She has been referred to as a Ninja as she goes about serving in the shadows.

  • http://twitter.com/AmyDrown Amy Drown

    Interesting thoughts! As an introvert myself, I really wish people understood that it doesn’t mean we are socially inept or awkward. We’re not timid wallflowers who cower in corners. We can be comfortable with public speaking. We can handle meeting new people. We can engage with all manner of crowds. Many of us even enjoy all of the above. But we do need that “alone time,” and it’s not because we don’t like you or don’t want to be around you–it just means we need to recharge. We’re not kinetic watches that get wound up by a flurry of movement! We need time to quietly sit in our little charging docks and regroup. :-)In the church context, however, you are in a position to encourage introverts that they already ARE being bold and sharing their faith in a multitude of ways. Just because they’re not standing on street corners shouting to multitudes doesn’t mean they’re not witnessing–or that others aren’t noticing. Encourage the introverts in your congregation to utilize their quiet, gentle gifts in new ways–can they visit an old folks’ home and read aloud to someone who gets no visitors? knit blankets for new babies at the local crisis pregnancy center? Don’t offend us with lectures on how to “get out there” more in the ways you extroverts enjoy–but DO challenge us to get creative in the ways we used our special God-wiring for His glory.