Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

8.26.2016

Was Jesus an Introvert or an Extrovert?



I remember the first time a friend enlightened me as to the definition of an introvert: "It means you get your energy and recharge from being by yourself."

I had never heard the concept explained so simply before, and the definition definitely described me. I was fascinated, and I soon noticed this topic cropping up everywhere. In the beginning I chalked it up to the phenomenon that occurs when you learn something new and inevitably the new word stalks you from radio shows and bumper stickers and sky-writing. But as a few years have passed since that first discovery, one would think the phenomenon would pass too, but instead I have noticed two ever-increasing trends:
{scientific statistics alert}

1. A whole lot of people whom I would have dubbed extroverts actually called themselves introverts. And...
2. A whole lot of people in general like to talk about this topic at length. In fact, if you have a self-described introvert who won't make conversation about anything else, simply bring up the topic of introversion, and you will be hard pressed to change the subject. 

Understanding personality types has helped me understand others' perspectives and shape my responses in some very effective ways, but I began to wonder: We're talking about it a lot, but does the Bible have anything to say about introverts and extroverts? Is one more godly than the other? Is all this focus on personality really good or is there a limit to the benefits of navel-gazing?

Fast-forward to another conversation with a different friend, and as I was beginning to ask these questions of myself, I asked her if she were an introvert or an extrovert. She declined to classify herself as either, saying simply that she was trying to avoid a self-focus, and couldn't help but see the wisdom in her response. 
So is there any redeeming value in learning about your personality tendencies? I turned to God's Word, and here is what I discovered:

1. We are uniquely different, but united in glorifying God.
Personality groupings are helpful, but ultimately fall short.

Whether you're an INFP or an AARP, it feels good to belong and fit in with a group of people who "get" you. I know the feeling! It's not wrong to seek commonalities with those around you, but you have to realize that any grouping is ultimately simplistic. Even experts on the subject will readily agree to the fact that these types are generalizations. 

The truth is that God has created us all unique {Psalm 139:16, 1 Peter 4:10-11}, with subtle differences in our personalities and perspectives, our strengths and weaknesses. These differences cannot be wholly grasped by a personality test, helpful though it may be.

And although we are all different, whenever the Bible speaks of gifts or strengths, it speaks of using them for the unified purpose of glorifying God. So if I box myself into the type of an introvert and tell myself that because of my introversion it is fine to not push my comfort zone, I am missing the whole point and indulging in the self-focus my friend mentioned. Selfishness was a nagging problem I had with this whole topic as it is my weakness and can be the weakness of the personality-obsessed as well. "Discover your personality, not so you can better serve God, but so you can keep yourself happy and satisfied."

2 Timothy 3:2 prophesies that "men will be lovers of themselves" in the last days. Feeding my desires for introverted comfort can definitely lead to becoming a lover of self just as feeding extroverted desires could lead to being a man-pleaser. Those are the extremes, I grant you. But here's the bottom line: we were created to glorify God {Isaiah 43:7}, and any understanding of personality type is only helpful as far as it aids in that purpose. Which brings me to the next thing I've learned...

2. We are new creations when we are saved, and all things have become new.
Personality tendencies can be insightful, but should not be used as an excuse.

Are personalities too sacred to be sanctified? Not according to 2 Corinthians 5:17: " Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

K.B. Napier writes,"Man cannot alter his own personality, it is argued, because his personality and 'drives' are inborn and handed-down by evolution. Any defects, nasty as some of them are, must just be accepted as they appear in each individual. This idea runs through much of our social sciences and it is unfortunately expressed by the majority of Christians. And it is wrong. People become new creatures when they are saved....The change of personality by the Holy Spirit is not an option for special types of Christian.  It is required of us all, by God."

Thankfully, God's principles and commands in Scripture provide balance to our lives and personalities. Knowing that I want to be alone when I'm tired or not cram every day full of activity is a helpful insight to not burning myself out. But I have to understand that sometimes these desires turn selfish. God doesn't call me to take the road of ease or least stress, but He does call me to obey Him even when it is the last thing I want to do. 

So if a friend or family member needs help, and I find my blood pressure rising because I was just about to have some "me" time, I have two options: I can use my "introvert" status as an excuse, or I can realize that I am now at the end of myself and my strength, and turn to the power of the Holy Spirit like I should have been doing all along. 

With the right perspective, insight into my natural weaknesses and strengths can actually help me mature in Christ {Mt. 26:41, 1 Cor. 1:27}, but it does not give me a free pass to ignore certain commands of God because they go against my personality. And whether I am an introvert or an extrovert, above all as a Christian I am wholly a new creation in Christ! 

3. Understanding how Jesus related to God and others can help us think Biblically about our personalities.
Neither being introverted nor extroverted is automatically more godly, but both can have this weakness in common: looking to man for fulfillment.

So was Jesus an introvert or an extrovert?
Asking this question revealed a much deeper answer than I was expecting! Matthew 14:23 provides a great example of what was a habitual occurrence in Jesus' life: " And when {Jesus} had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there."

Jesus spent time with the multitudes, and just that word "multitudes" challenges the introverted me.
But there came a time in His day when He sent them away, a difficulty for the extroverts out there.
However, it was what He did in that alone time that is key: He didn't look within, and He didn't look to others; He looked to His Father in Heaven.

So there you have it.
Introverts, we like to look in.
Extroverts, they tend to look out.
Believers need to look up.

“Recharging Danbo Power,” © 2013 Takashi Hososhima, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

6 comments:

  1. Well said, Lauren! Your second point especially...it's far too easy to excuse an inclination to energize self by thinking "that's just how I am," rather than considering what will bring the most glory to God. But we have been renewed for the latter purpose - not for the cause of conserving self's energies!
    I also really appreciate your insight that Jesus' "alone time" was actually time with the Father. That thought both challenges and extremely excites me - it's how I want to spend my alone time!

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    1. Thanks! This has been my writing project for the last few weeks! (-; And I agree about being renewed for glorifying God...that was probably the biggest thing I learned through studying this topic!

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  2. I love it that you pointed out that Jesus' "recharging" time wasn't selfish isolation but time with the Father. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks Kate! That was very eye-opening for me!

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