Am I This Personality Type?

About a decade ago, I read up on the descriptions of introverts and extroverts and exhaled a big sigh of relief. I finally had some concrete understanding and descriptions of why I as an introvert would literally feel energy sap out of me when I was in large groups, even groups comprised of people I love dearly. I finally understood why I felt so invigorated by one-on-one conversations but at the same time struggled to formulate and articulate my thoughts quickly, as my very busy inner thoughts searched for spoken words that I wanted to use sparingly. I latched on with great gusto to the identity of introvert because I felt it finally clarified and validated so much of who I was and why I functioned the way I did.

While identifying with the personality type of “introvert” has certainly provided me helpful insight in navigating social situations and budgeting personal energy reserves, it has also tripped me up in unexpected ways. I found myself thinking things such as, “It’s not natural for me to talk it up with people so I’m not going to try and get to know the other parents in my children's classrooms. I’m an introvert!” “Of course I don’t have a natural inclination to host people at our home; I’m an introvert!” I found the introvert identity to be an easy crutch and even a justification for sin when I simply didn’t want to make sacrifices of time and energy for others.

Of course there is some wisdom in knowing our personal inclinations, strengths and limitations. It does give us an idea of how to steward our inner resources. But the danger in holding so tightly to my claimed identity as an introvert was that I saw it as the primary shaper of who I was, more than I saw God in that role. I saw it as the core dictator of what I could or could not do by way of serving God and serving others. It was not just a willingness issue, “I won’t do that because I’m an introvert” (excuse-making), but also a faith issue. I began to believe the lie, “This [introvert] is who I am, and even God’s grace is not sufficient to overcome the weaknesses of an introvert.”

As God has gently revealed my misplaced faith and the sins that have resulted from it, He has shown me how my core identity in Him ought to influence my perspective on my personality’s inclinations, strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Use my inclinations as a helpful guide in stewarding my inner resources to worship God and serve others, but always lean fundamentally on His grace as the source of all service. For example, one Sunday I was serving on worship team, which meant I was at church and interacting with people from 7:00am until 12:30pm. I then took my young children to a kid’s birthday party from 1:30pm to 3:30pm, and then returned to church for the 5:00pm service. Sure enough, by the 5:00pm service I struggled to focus on the worship music and struggled to engage in meaningful conversation with people. I learned to try not to pack a Sunday with worship team and other lengthy social commitments, but I can also rest in God’s grace to sustain me rather than focus with self-pity on my introverted preferences when compressed days cannot be avoided.                                                                                                                                          
  2. Use the strengths of my personality in conjunction with my spiritual gifts, and offer them up for His glory alone. I believe one of my spiritual gifts is mercy, and this gift in conjunction with my introverted tendencies to focus on one person at a time works well for my profession as an ICU nurse where I have only 1-2 patients each shift. When I go to work, I don’t attribute my abilities to be an effective nurse to my own strengths as an introvert, but rather to God and His choice to make me who I uniquely am with the gifts He has given me.                                      
  3. Embrace the weaknesses of my personality not as easy excuses for sin, but as useful informants for decisions and as opportunities for God to show His strength in weakness. Signing up to serve as a Camp Nurse at Royal Family Kids Camp was a wonderful example of this. It was clear God was nudging me to sign up, though much of me feared that I wouldn’t be able to last each day (much less the whole week) as an introvert. I was able to navigate my role at camp such that I certainly had plenty of interaction with others, but also had moments to step away and briefly recharge. God’s grace covered all of us at camp and He provided the strength and joy we needed each day to serve the kids and each other even when we were all stretched to our limits. He was greatly glorified as a result!

What I am learning is that I am a child of God who happens to have an introverted personality. He is my Creator, my Father, my King, my Lord, and my Source of strength. This is the glorious truth that informs my personality, not vice versa. Because of this truth, I can bring the tendencies, strengths and weaknesses of my personality and offer it all in worship to Him and in service to others.