Introvert with a Super Power
I just finished reading Susan Cain’s best-selling book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. In it, Cain hypothesizes that our culture has long championed the extrovert: the person who is the life of the party; who talks the loudest and most often; who is confident, popular, and well known. Our culture has decided that extroverts make the best leaders and that introverts, wrongly thought to be shy and less intelligent, cannot be successful. Cain is a self-professed introvert who graduated from Harvard Law School, where she endured the pain of extreme collaborative learning and networking expectations; and she sets out to show that introverts are some of our best thinkers, creators, and leaders. She argues that, in fact, introverted individuals are often more effective and have better ideas than the extroverts we naturally gravitate toward.
I was thinking about Cain’s ideas and about what it means to be an introverted Christian in churches that have increasingly urged extroverted behavior. In her book, Cain tells of her visit to a seminar by inspirational self-help coach Tony Robbins a week before visiting a church service at a popular megachurch, and she notes that the similarities were striking. In both places, a confident, well-spoken person on stage encouraged the audience to respond with exuberance and passion to his message. In the Robbins seminar, the theme was to “release the power within.” In the church service, the theme was much the same, only used as an expression to praise God. Cain writes, “If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.” She asks, What about those among us who prefer to keep to ourselves and have a personal relationship with Jesus? Are we lesser Christians when we don’t clap, raise our hands during songs, or volunteer to pray in small groups during the service?
Moses has long been cited as a biblical introvert. In Exodus 4:10, after repeated excuses to God about why he wouldn’t be a good leader of the Israelites, Moses finally comes clean about his real worry: “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled” (NLT).
God has a solution for Moses, of course. God convinces him that his brother Aaron can do the talking for him, that the two of them can go in tandem and convince Pharaoh to let the Israelite people go.
Moses was the quiet thinker, the leader, but he didn’t look like one. He was nervous about the way he spoke, and he probably didn’t inspire confidence in the Israelite people. But God chose him anyway. With God’s power inside him, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.
God chose many people who were certainly lacking in confidence, if not introverted, to build his Kingdom. Think about Sarah and Abraham, in old age, chosen to plant the first seeds of the nation of Israel. Think about Gideon when God chose him to battle the Midianites in Judges 6:15: “ ‘But Lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!’ God answered, simply, ‘I will be with you’ ” (6:16, NLT). Consider Mary and Joseph, the people chosen to deliver and raise the Savior of the world. They were young and unassuming, but both (with the help of a couple of angels) faithfully carried out a seemingly impossible task.
Susan Cain is a champion of introverts and maintains that many of us consider ourselves introverts. She cites business leaders and innovators who are famously introverted (Bill Gates is probably the most famous of all.) But she also observes that we celebrate introverted behavior only in those who have become rich and famous and that we tend to ignore those who lead ordinary introverted lives.
If so many of us are introverts, what does this mean for the church and our obedience to Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 (NLT) to “go and make disciples of all the nations”? Does Jesus say, “Those of you who feel confident and outgoing, go and make disciples”?
God doesn’t care if you are introverted, extroverted, old, young, or weak. He offers us a weapon—a superpower, really—that enables all of us to have the power within us to build his Kingdom. Romans 8:31 (NLT) says, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
Isn’t that a comforting thought? With the Holy Spirit in us, we can be introverts who can’t stop talking—about what it means to be a Christ-follower!
Ron DeBoer is a writer and educator living near Toronto.