I almost never mention in this space a traumatic event that changed our lives forever. Twenty-two years ago, we were forced to leave the mission field and subsequently fired from the mission we were with (which has since been absorbed by another mission). Our dream of spending our adult lives serving God in Africa came to a screeching halt.
I will spare you the details, because they are still very painful to recall, and because it might taint your view of how mission organizations operate, and I’d like to think they are not all as bad as ours was.
The reason I’m bringing it up is to discuss the fact that the primary charge against me in particular was that I was an introvert . And fat. I was a fat introvert and that was treated as a sin so monstrous that we had to leave the mission field. Now, of course, it was not put that way. Nobody said to us, “Well, you are introverts, and introversion is a sin, so you must be punished by being sent home.” But that’s what it all kind of boiled down to.
In retrospect, the charges against me still seem so ludicrous:
“At potlucks and other social events, you focus on taking care of your four young children [including a baby] instead of socializing with the adults.”
“Sometimes when someone comes to your door, you just call ‘Come in,’ instead of going to the door to greet them.” (Eg. when I was sitting down nursing the baby.)
“Sometimes you knit when you are taking part in a conversation.” (I thought people would be impressed that I could be productive while talking.)
Over and over the point was made that I was not friendly and outgoing enough, despite the fact that I hosted a group of young single missionaries in my home one evening a week, and despite the fact that I led and hosted a ladies Bible study/sewing class in my home every week also.
As an introvert, I could enjoy having small groups of people in my home much more than I could tolerate taking part in very large social activities. But, I was told in so many ways that being an introvert was sinful and unacceptable. (My husband, who is a much more extreme introvert than me, was off the hook because unlike me he is really good at small talk.)
As I have pondered this over the years, it has made me more rather than less angry, because I don’t believe that anyone’s personality type is inherently sinful, or more sinful than another personality type. What about someone who, like the apostle Peter, runs his mouth and says things he later regrets? Should he also be kicked out of a Christian organization for being too impulsive or too volatile?
Of course, as Christians we strive to interact with others in a loving way and avoid offense whenever possible. But we do that in the framework of our God-given personalities. What outreach looks like for an extrovert is quite different from the approach that an introvert will take. Yet I’ve always believed that God can and will use us all, if we are willing. Some people respond better to a quiet one-on-one conversation than they do to participating in loud, embarrassing group activities, and that’s how it should be. There is no one-size-fits-all human personality, no one true way to have a ministry.
What do you think? If you are trying to serve God in some capacity, is it wrong to be an introvert? Do you see it as a handicap that must be overcome?