In 1922 a guy called Carl Jung started to talking about Introverts and Extroverts – people who seem more outgoing and get their energy there or people (like me) who can be a little more gentle and enjoy space and solitude.
If you’ve ever done a personality test like Myers Briggs you will have come across these terms. I wonder what you think you are?
I’ve had a number of jobs working with Church and Faith groups and have noticed often that leaders tend to be more outgoing or extroverted. For a while this caused me a problem. But when I got involved in 24-7 Prayer I found myself strangely affirmed and encouraged discovering that being ‘contemplative’ was a way I could express this gift of introversion.
I’ve been reading a wonderful book called ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’. In it, Susan Cain tries to simplify these terms extrovert and introvert suggesting there are real gifts in both sides of character. She shows how valuable Introverts can be in different settings.
Early on, Cain asks whether Introverts sometimes get misunderstood in church settings. If you relate to being introverted you’ve probably explored the whole thing about praying out loud and about being able to talk to random strangers about your faith. Cain recalls the phrase she heard a lot that “if you don’t love God out loud, then it must not be real love.” Have you ever heard that before?
I remember being told to break the sound-barrier, to learn to share my faith in conversation, to always take opportunities. I can remembering terrifying days of knocking on doors with parish teams. This wasn’t really me.
Then as a leader I can remember learning skills of speaking in front of people and of being energetic and vocal in groups. I learnt these skills and they’re a great gift – but they’re not where I find my energy.
I recall vividly my first night in a 24-7 Prayer room. The flicker of the candles, quite contemplative music, the chance to write and to draw. The solitude. I used to often book the night or early hours slots knowing I’d often be on my own.
The thing is this isn’t a right way or a wrong way to pray. It’s the way I feel most alive. I love to pray loudly at times. I love loud music at times. It’s great to pray in groups. But for my personality sometimes the sense of retreat serves me best.
Paul urged Timothy to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18). This is good advice.
So I’d like to invite you to take a little journey with me: