The whole point of this series of posts about introversion has been to get to the point where I can share with you about what God has been doing in my life in this area in the past couple of years.
For a long time I struggled with a combination of shyness and introversion, brought about by a combination of family history and perhaps moving from a small country town to the city in my early adolescence (I’m sure the psychs would have something to say). Over the course of several years I got to the point where I avoided contact with people. I always made sure that I socialised with people I knew well, and I refused a lot of social invitations where I didn’t know many people.
All through school I had daily panic attacks about things as simple as walking into the classroom or buying food from the canteen. I experienced severe anxiety about the fellowship times at the end of church. I didn’t like talking to people I wasn’t close friends with. To be honest…I didn’t see the point, and I didn’t know why anyone would be vaguely interested in hearing about the minutiae of my life. And even as a teenager I felt as though there were something wrong with me because I didn’t enjoy these things the way I saw others seemingly thriving on this kind of interaction. I didn’t spend hours wandering the shopping malls or talking on the phone like I saw the teenagers on TV doing. What was wrong with me?
As a young mother it was even easier to avoid contact with people, after all I was busy with the kids (two boys in two years was hard work…a perfectly plausible excuse for isolation), but that was also the time when I started to look at the broader picture of what God might want in my life. I began to see God’s plan for reaching the world and I began to understand thatI needed to be in contact with people outside my normal circle so that God could work the way He wanted to. So I joined a mothers’ group in order to meet new people…which lead to a number of years of the most “out of my comfort zone” moments of my life. It was hard work! So many times I wanted to quit! But now, 11 years later, these women are some of my closest friends, and God has worked through their lives, and I’d like to think that God has used me in their lives too.
Over the years God has continued to work and change the way I relate to people, and the way I look after myself. I now feel comfortable up in front of people in a leadership role and in a public speaking role, I can even approach strangers and hold an extended conversation…that is a HUGE deal for me. It is a continual process though, and it takes ongoing awareness of both the advantages and the limitations of my introverted-ness (is that a real word?) so that i can get the support I need…here are some things I’ve learned over the years.
Six tips for being a Spirit-controlled introvert:
1. Pray for self awareness. Ask God to show you when you are acting like an introvert, but would better serve your eternal purpose by engaging with people a little more. We are only able to change something if we are aware of it. Introversion is one of those things that can really only be “managed” through the strength of the Holy Spirit, so if we know what we are doing, then we can ask for help. The Holy Spirit isn’t just going to barge in and take over…he waits to be invited into a willing participant’s daily activity.
2. Be aware of God’s purpose for humans. Purpose is one of those funny things that lets us transcend our self-obsessed human state (be that as an isolated introvert or as an in-your-face extrovert). The absolutely astonishing thing about God is that he has chosen humans as his vehicle for letting people know that He is good and that He has a plan for their lives. Knowing that this is the reason we are on earth is an amazing motivator.
3. Another facet of that plan is that our role is to be carried out through relationships….which is why we, as introverts, can’t avoid people all the time. Serving God is costly…this is where the rubber hits the road for introverts. It is going to cost us to make sure we are engaging people in authentic relationships all the time, but the good news is that we have the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to restore us.
4. Recognise that you are an introvert because that’s the way God wired you. He knows that you will have fewer relationships than your extroverted counterparts, but that these relationships will tend to be deeper and more intense. Don’t stress about it, it’s not a competition! Never ever compare yourself to anyone else….especially an extrovert! 🙂 Relax, be yourself and make yourself available for God work through you. You are, more likely than not, the only one who is going to be able to meet that shy person in the corner where they’re at, and help them to be relaxed about who they’re wired to be.
5. Pray for sensitivity to the needs of others, particularly your family – this is particularly important for husbands and wives.
6. Make sure you take time out to recover and rest in God’s presence. Don’t take the being with people thing to the extreme. You won’t be able to engage well with people if you don’t take time to look after yourself.
The key to being a Spirit-controlled introvert is your willingness. If you are willing to be moulded and developed and grown by the influence of the Holy Spirit, then God will do amazing things through your life.
Share your story! How has God helped you cope as an introvert in an extrovert dominated world?