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Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert?

We love labeling people, don’t we? You know how it goes. We walk into a gathering of humans we really don’t know all that well and as we interact we size them up. We might think to ourselves, “This one is smart” or “This one’s got money” or maybe even, “I wish she would shut up!” accompanied by, “I so wish he would open up more!” I believe what is truly being said is, “Why aren’t they more like ME?!”

In the incredible complexity of the human brain and the endless varieties of personalities, we still cannot seem to comprehend how utterly ridiculous it is to fully categorize people in neat little boxes. If God saw fit to make each individual fingerprint unique, how is it we have the audacity to believe that so-and-so should think the way I think, to feel the way I feel, to see how I see? Certainly there are identifiable personality traits and even love languages. But even in those we see a spectrum of everything in between the tidy little boxes.

I find myself never quite fitting into the categories, particularly concerning the traits of introvert or extrovert. Openly enjoying interactions with others and becoming energized and animated when engaging in deep conversation, I have been categorized as an extreme extrovert. Yet, those who know me intimately see the other side…the person who escapes, who lingers hours on end in a good book, and who can walk the beach alone for hours, enjoying every precious moment of solitude. Am I just mixed up? Why do I intensely enjoy these extremes? Is there a grouping for this state of confusion??

I am an ambivert! Yes, scientific research has confirmed there IS such a type who has a balance of both introvert and extrovert features.  In addition to this self-realization it seems to me that Jesus, also, fit nicely into that type. Investigating the four gospels, we see this Man pouring Himself into wedding feasts, celebrating Jewish holidays, effectively feeding and healing the multitudes, and verbally interacting with a cross section of the population during His three year open-to-the-public ministry. Yet, the Man of Sorrows often “withdrew to lonely places”. He spent time in solitude with His Father in deep prayer and introspection in addition to listening to painful cries with a tender heart.  Jesus reveals both qualities of introversion and extroversion. And maybe we are called to both, too.

In this season of life the Lord has called me to readjust some long-standing habits that I just considered were my basic personality traits. The extrovert has been called to pull in the reins somewhat, to hold the tongue, to allow space for others to share their lives without my need to fix it.  I am being called to learn this beautiful art of communication called listening. I want to tune in, to hear a person out from beginning to end without interrupting. I can refer to my Italian heritage and my upbringing in the loud state of New Jersey as to how we all communicate chaotically and make excuses for the animation during conversation! But, honestly, it doesn’t fly in most groups I have found myself in, particularly in the South. So, as Holy Spirit often does, He is calling me to crucify that tongue and resurrect a new one…one of encouragement, one of waiting and discipline, one of expressing His verbal Love. Along with this, the introvert in me is being called out as not to become the self-focused me. In my need to escape I can’t lose my awareness of how God might be calling me out of it in order to meet a need, as long as HE is calling me to meet it.

So, if you consider yourself an extrovert, are you willing to allow God to refine you? To pull you back into isolating times with Him? To allow space for others to express themselves and learn the art of listening? And if you are distinctly an introvert, are you willing to push yourself to open up? To know others and to make yourself known? I know that can be a scary concept for you quiet ones, but in the Body of Christ we are called to community, not to isolation. Comfort zones do not create relationships.

Intro-vert or extro-vert, maybe it’s time to re-vert back to a place where God can shape your personality to reflect His own in all of its beauty and complexity. HE doesn’t label you. Maybe it’s time we, too, pull the labels off of ourselves and of others. It just might reveal the ambivert in all of us.

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Lori Travers

Lori finds the Joy of the Lord to be her strength. Born and raised an Italian Jersey girl, she has finally settled in the south as Reynolda Presbyterian church became her new home. Ministry to women, reading, writing, cooking, and anything having to do with animals are her sweet spots. Having a background in cardiac testing, she chose to stay home and raise three incredible children who are now married, and currently has 2 precious granddaughters and one faithful husband of 34 years.

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