For introverts, socializing with strangers provides as much entertainment as an empty room does to an extrovert. It's not that we don't like people; we are simply hyper-discerning with whom we chose to share our time.
Not long ago, my husband said, "I'd really like for you to meet my friend, Hank."
I turned to him and said, "But I've already met Hank."
He rolls his eyes. "That was like, six months ago."
Silence filled a few seconds as I tried to understand what more was needed of me. And then it was clear, "Ohhhh, you want me to socialize with him."
It's not that I don't like Hank or don't want to get to know him some day, but my mind processed my husband's request as: "I want you to meet someone who has an issue you would be helpful with." I almost got excited:
"Does Hank have an HR question I can help him with?"
"Does Hank need tips on how to talk to his boss?"
"Does Hank need a checklist, cause I can whip up some checklists?"
When I learned that I might have to just sit and talk to Hank about day to day things, I started to feel useless. So you don't really need me there?
It is beyond me that Hank might want to hang out because the potential for fun exists. (Enter more laughter) As an introvert, and especially as an ISTJ, I have to know there is a meaninful purpose for the relationship - distant acquaintance though it is - before we start talking about having fun. Puhshaw.
BUT, eager to play along, I threw out a perfectly acceptable date three months into the future where I felt I could socialize for a predetermined amount of time.
But all I got was a, "Babe."
"What? I've already filled my calendar with solitary activities between now and then." I tap my head to show him where my calendar is stored.
But, I love my extroverted husband and want to support him, so I prayed about it. Being an introvert does not make me a social pariah anymore than an extrovert finding solitude enjoyable is. But engaging in this new venture will require energy and planning ahead on my part.
And because I am an Introverted Believer, I turn to His Word where I am reminded of my purpose and how to fulfill it:
Ephesians 5:2 says, "And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us."
If I am to show the love of God, I have to WALK - not sit, lie down or stand still or even text. I have to get from underneath the cozy blanket, pull my nose from my book and yank the earbuds from me ears.
Love is actionable, moves and makes forward progress.
In my desire to love the way that Jesus did, I have to give up the foolish notion that introversion means I operate under some kind of diminished capacity to be kind to people. Introversion is a personality trait and does not describe our character.
So while I can poke fun of myself that it takes weeks to charge my "socializing" battery, I also know that as an Introverted Believer, I might have to take the first steps to making conversation meaningful. Instead of thinking of ways to get home more quickly, I can take active steps to walk in love instead. Below are four ways I can Walk in Love when I'm not feeling particularly outgoing:
1. Hope Notes - When I know I am going to a part or large gathering where I might have to stay awhile, I bring 5-10 Hope Notes with me. Hope notes are tiny note cards in pretty little envelopes. I wrote bible verses on one side and a prayer on the other. I prayed over each one, asking God to choose someone specifically for that particular note. I prayed He would speak love into them. Then I hid them in nooks and crannies at the get-together. As they were found, it was fun to hear about the encouragement it provided. And since no one knew who did it, it became quite the conversation piece.
2. Search for a New Cause - Instead of small talk (ugh!) inquire whether anyone knows of an upcoming fundraising event that could use extra volunteers. A good cause is something introverts and extroverts alike can talk easily about. It's also an easy conversation starter and a great way to show Jesus' love through serving others (provided you follow-up and volunteer!).
3. Clean up - Take away dirty plates, collect empty glasses and bottles or offer to tidy up a bit. This keeps me moving around and shows gratitude and respect for the host. Find any way you can to serve in the environment you are in.
4. Compliment Others - lifting others up will never get old. Whether you're at church making a beeline for the door while your extrovert spouse chats away, or you see chatty Cathy at the grocery store, take the focus off yourself and take the opportunity to provide an authentic compliment.
How do you walk in love when you'd rather spend time alone?
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