13 February 2015

personality, epiphanies, and the church

I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for the first time when I was about 10 years old. I’m not sure that researchers have studied the accuracy of the test for children but whatever the case, I remember getting ESFJ.

Fast-forward about ten years, and I took it for the second time. By this time, I knew more about the test itself and had some ideas about my personality; or at least, I knew that the first letter referred to either extraversion or introversion. By this age, I was aware that people were extremely important to me and I figured this meant that I was an extravert. Back to the MBTI, the second time I scored as an ENFP. This time, I read the description and felt it moderately described what I knew of my personality; it was not a perfect fit but it was pretty close.

Then this weekend happened.

It all started with this hobby of mine. You see, I like to understand people. I like to understand what makes people tick: why this person responds in this way and that person responds in that way. I enjoy reading different articles and books about personality psychology because it helps me better understand the people in my context. However, this weekend, my hobby took me to uncharted territory.

I found an article on Huffington Post about introversion. I have a number of friends who identify as introverts so I enjoy reading about introversion to help me understand their experience of life. Well, it was going fine and dandy until I had an epiphany. The person that the article was describing with these classic signs of introversion was uncomfortably similar to myself. 

Could I be an introvert?

So, I did what any good scientist would do and went back to the beginning of the article and read it closely analyzing each trait that was mentioned while frantically wracking my brain for experiences in my life to both prove and disprove each sign. I got to the end of the article and realized the shocking news: I mostly likely was an introvert.

How could I have lived my entire life without knowing this rather large detail about myself? How could I be a self-proclaimed people person and be an introvert? Surely, I was mistaken.

I spent the next 48 hours poring over different articles on introversion and extraversion, tentatively asking my very close friends for their opinions on the idea, and reflecting on past experiences in my life. At some point during that time, I decided to try something with the MBTI: I took it for the third time. This time I got INFP. Again, I read the description; only this time, it was like having someone hold up a mirror to my face. I was reading about myself!

Somewhere between seeing that mirror and having a couple friends exclaim that they had seen me as an introvert already that I accepted the truth: I was and am an introvert. This is both freeing and scary. I’m in uncharted territory. It’s like I’ve been painting the canvas of life with what I thought to be the color fire engine red only to discover that I’ve been painting with robin’s egg blue this whole time.

In one of my classes, Global Christian Heritage II, we have spent a lot of time talking about sacraments, worship style, and spiritual practices throughout our Christian history. We debate various methods of evangelism and the complications of imperial Christianity in other countries.

This week, as I live my life for the first time as a conscious introvert, I am struck by how much extraversion is rewarded in Christianity. We affirm the communal aspects of life so much that the private aspects of our faith are pushed to the margins. We push community groups; we invite people to meet-and-greet during worship services; we play music that is highly stimulating with drums and electric guitars; we honor the friendly, energetic volunteer in front of the congregation. These tasks all reward the extravert.

Where in our faith do we leave space for introverts? Where are the quiet times in our services? How are we supporting the diversity of personalities in our brothers and sisters?

My epiphany this weekend about my own introversion has raised a lot of questions that I hope to explore further as I grow in my understanding of my self. I also see a need for the Church regarding this. Maybe I can help create that space and recognition that introverts matter in the Church.

*This post was originally written for a reflection for a Practicum class. 

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