As I stated in a previous blog, I never really “fit in” to the social molds of the churches I’ve attended. This isn’t because I vehemently opposed how those people related to each other (extroverted and/or emotionally), but I had no basis to relate to them in real-time other than the common social courtesies. Occasionally, someone would peak my interests with a question about technology or such, but this was rare and I generally got the “deer in the headlights” look when I went into my INTP style speech (think of it as a cat who is usually stoically calm until some minor detail catches his attention and he goes entertainingly ballistic) . This can be quite an experience to witness when an INTP is presented with a topic in which they are knowledgeable and interested in. These reactions tend to shock most who only seem to know me as quiet and reserved. Even when I attempted to speak of Biblical truths I was learning, the response was negative as it wasn’t part of the traditional standards and didn’t fit into the doctrinal box they had created.
However, being in church, I was always taught to attempt to fit into their mold to be an effective Christian. I tried for most of my life and thought it would get easier over time but it never did. Continually I tried to speak up more (when it was allowed) and even attempted to sing with the congregation, and later with the choir *shudder*. Eventually, I joined the skit team. Since many knew me as quiet, they seemed amazed when I started performing the skits. As an INTP though, this wasn’t terribly hard. I knew in advance what I was supposed to be doing and saying based on the script. On occasion I would ad-lib a few lines, but this was rare and my humor didn’t seem to be understandable to most (though a few other introverts in the crowd got it 🙂 ). I could even manage to cry if I had to as part of the skit. This is all to say that when an INTP knows what to do, they can do it, but it may not be “organic” for them.
Even though people seemed to like the skits, it was just another form of entertainment that tied back to the institution’s agenda. Unfortunately, memorizing and performing skits began to become tedious as I wasn’t seeing others grow spiritually or experiencing much spiritual growth myself. When one of these skits would touch on a deep issue, it seems no one got it as they were only waiting for the punch line.
Now the reason I’m writing all of this is to say that it is possible for an INTP and other introverts to “fit in,” but it is a horribly draining experience. When our efforts are forced and manipulated, it further drives us away from wanting to fit in. Now, I’ve heard it said that embracing introversion puts us in a position to withdraw from helping others. Some even seem afraid to embrace their introverted nature because of this. Embracing our strengths isn’t an excuse to exclude ourselves from fellowship. For me personally, I’ve grown exponentially closer to God by embracing my INTP nature. This has allowed me, for the most part, to be more receptive to the Holy Spirit’s voice and actually witness to more people in a way that is much more fruitful. Likewise, when I do lapse into too heavily of an introverted withdrawal, the Holy Spirit helps guide me back to where I personally need to be.
Being told not to use our introversion as an excuse seems to be just a manipulation to continue to obligate us to how the religious institutions want us to perform. Yet, when we embrace how God created each of us and follow the Spirit, we have the potential to become much more effective for him. However, if we follow the institutions template (introverted or not), we run the risk of missing God’s will for us in favor of man’s guidance, even if this external guidance may seem right on the surface. Following man’s “right” ways can never suffice for following God.