Introversion Revisited

spiritual formation, introverts, introversion, How to Care for Introverts, anxiety, entitlement

* Image Copyright Walter P. Parrish III

This cute, little list of ways the world is supposed to care for introverts has been going around the social media world lately (click to enlarge). I might be an introvert, but it bothers me, to be honest, for a number of reasons.

First, I think it once again shows that people aren’t really clear on what introversion is, and lots of traits get lumped together under one title, even though they’re not really accurate. In this case, a few of these commands are for introverts, but many more of them are for people with social anxiety issues, those having a preference for internal processing, people more comfortable with structure and completion than spontaneity and open-ended-ness, and normal individuals with reasonable boundaries.

Another issue that bothers me is that it seems to arise out of entitlement. While the tone of this particular list is mild, many such lists are much more forceful. But even this one begins by explaining that it is a list of how other people should care for introverts. This absolves the introverts of their responsibility to take care of their own needs. We all certainly need others to help us, and we need to ask for help, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one of these kinds of things attached to requests; they’re always demands or expectations placed upon others. The (assumed) extroverted world is expected to take care of the introverts. What the introverts need is supposed to be taken care of by everyone else, but the introverts themselves aren’t obligated to return that care. It’s a very young, entitled position.

But the issue that I think is most troubling is related to both of the previous two. If these traits define a person, whether they’re introversion or not, and if others have to take care of him or her, then there’s no reason for the person to grow or mature. Their insecurity in social circumstances never changes. They end up closing themselves off from opportunities and maybe even calls that God might be making of them. The assumption is that their introversion is hardwired into them, but when they lump various anxieties and weaknesses in with that introversion, then those anxieties and weaknesses are hardwired. There’s nothing they can do about them.

There’s even the assumption that the love of God cannot do anything about those places of anxiety and weakness as well. Such soft spots don’t come from a need for God or His love; they’re fixtures of design and thereby unchangeable. In a way, this is a means of limiting God and a rejection of His desire to swzein them, the Greek word meaning both “save” and “heal”.

I’m being somewhat chastising here, but it’s because I think those who grab hold of these kinds of calls for introverts’ rights are hurting themselves in the long run. Requests like some of these are worthwhile and necessary when done with a person directly and as a means of supporting you while you face your demons. Beyond this, though, there is more to be done and more that God desires to do in you. Questions can be brought up in prayer: “Why do I feel so embarrassed when that kind of thing happens?” “Where are you, Lord, when I feel like this?” “Do you love me, even when these things happen?” “How can I hold on to you and trust that I’m going to be okay?”

God wants to heal old wounds that have led to shame and hurt in the present. God wants to uproot the causes of anxiety and replace them with His love and stability. But for that to happen, we can’t define them as intrinsic to our nature, regardless of what title we use.

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