Saturday, December 26, 2009

Coming out of the Closet

I have a post-Christmas confession. I am an introvert and Jesus still loves me. It feels so liberating to say that I am an introvert and a Christian. Some people will have trouble with that, but they just need to leave behind their victorian era views of Christian personality types and understand that this is the way that God made me and I'm proud of my introvertedness. I mean, really, didn't Moses hate public speaking. In fact, I'm going to start a lobby group called I-Force that will campaign for the acceptance and equality of introverts wherever they are in the fields of religion and academia.

More specifically, my personality type is INTJ (see here for description). Basically, this means that I'm a cold hearted book worm with a super-sized intellect in lieu of a sense of empathy. So I don't really care how you feel, but I know when I'm supposed to pretend to care in order to help someone if they need it. I'm task orientated with a capital "T" and if I'm on a mission just show where to bury the bodies of the people who get in my way. I like people, they are very useful entities, they need to be looked after, but after a while I need to be away from them. I do not understand why extroverts have some pathological and insatiable need to be around people all the flipping time. Extroversion is in fact a medical condition that I call "Barbara Streisand Syndrome" - People who need people are the weirdest people of all. Other INTJers around the blogosphere include Sean Michael Lucas, Michael Kruse, and M. Jay Bennett. For me, the real world is inside my head, and everything else is just the "Matrix".

When I tell people that I'm an introvert they scarcely believe me. Yes, I can project myself, yes I can speak in public and entertain folks. But don't confuse ego and the capacity for self-projection with personality. Ego is one of my major character flaws (I regularly cite 2 Cor 4.5 and Rom. 12.3 to try keep it in check) as I like to advertise to persons what I can do and show its value - in fact, my self-esteem is very much embedded in my capacity for intellectual success. I am also a natural entertainer so I can deliver sermons and lectures with little ease and I've learned fairly well how to read and work an audience. Truth be told, I'm actually a comedian and theology is just my medium. I enjoy being the life of the party - but only for a while - very quickly I feel the need to flee crowds before people drain me with their constant talking about stuff that I really don't care about. The hardest time for me after church is right after the service. If I'm preaching then I have to force myself to stand at the door and meet and greet everyone as they leave. If I'm not preaching then I have to make chit chat with folks and I have about 20 minutes of capacity for this, after that, I start looking for escape routes. Don't get me wrong, I like people, I love certain people, it's just that being around them can be so draining at time.

I'm saying all this because in 2010 one of the first books that I intend to read is Adam McHugh, Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture.

27 comments:

David said...

Michael,

Where can one join the "I-Force"? Sign me up!

From one INTJ to another

Dave

andrea said...

introverts making a group !!!

Clifford B. Kvidahl said...

Introverts unite!

Mike, I nominate you as our leader and commander in chief.

Lionel said...

Michael - I've enjoyed reading your blog. I, too, am an INTJ - indeed I confessed it a few weeks ago in front of a bunch of extroverts from church. I'll join this I-group provided we only have brief, to-the-point meetings with no small talk, preferably online.

Jason A. Staples said...

Another strong INTJ here (I have been called the poster-child of INTJs), and I wholeheartedly agree with and relate to everything in this post. Introverts (INTJs in particular) unite!

Stephen C. Carlson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Fellows said...

Mike, your INTJ status may help to explain why you are such a good NT scholar. I suspect that INTJs are particularly well represented among researchers in most disciplines.

NT scholars tend to work alone and I wonder if the discipline would benefit from more collaborative projects.

Also, I wonder if we have cast James in our own image as a scholar who worked alone. Acts 15:15-18 suggests that he learned OT texts about Gentiles from discussions with Hellenists (who read the LXX). If he had stumbled across this scripture in private study he would surely have read it in the Hebrew.

For what it's worth, I was an INTJ last time I looked.

Matthew said...

ugh. The thought of meeting with so many INTJs makes me feel faint. In any case, I'd be late. I'm an INTP, which, if anything makes me even more in my own head that you.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

This INTP won't be organized enough to unite (or, apparently, type correctly).

Terry Wright said...

Put me down as another INTJ in your army, Mike.

Watcher said...

I've often regarded extoverts as the froth on the surf of life...introverts, such as you and I are the ocean, there, swelling and moving with ponderous intent; able to respond as needed and when needed.

So much for the rave.

It must be an odd cultural thing that Christians would be 'typed' as exto! I would never have thought that; indeed the reverse would be more me; although I too, thrive on the platform and enjoy the performance of public speaking.

So, a club for introverts? I thought the church already did that...

BTW, Myers-Briggs, codswallop (and I dare say, community breaking) that is it seems surprisingly and uncritically popular around here!

Grosey's Messages said...

Sorry for you INTJ's but... do you think that your personality type affects your learning style, and the apologetic appeal of rational argument to you folk?

Rachel Marszalek said...

Such self-awareness - thanks for sharing. Somehow this time of year does make for profound self-reflection, especially when you meet up with all of those relatives who project a version of yourself whom you do not recognise - very interesting, thank you.
Rachel

Matthew said...

Stephen, who cares about such trivial details as typing correctly ;-)

Loren Rosson III said...

INT's are great folks, but you need P for perfection.

Danny Zacharias said...

I'm an INTJ as well. If I remember correctly from a class on leadership I took, INTJ's (or at least INT 's) dominate both academia and church leadership.

michael jensen said...

As an ENFP, I am deeply hurt by this post.

I don't know why, but we get deeply hurt by almost everything. Don't you care about us?

Actually, do you know how hard it is to be a scholar and an extrovert? Do you know how hard it was to a doctorate and be an E?

Daniel Sihombing said...

Praise the Lord for your post, Mike! I'm an introvert too, feel the same way with you. INFP, though..

Jason said...

INFP and INTPs shall declare war on your party of INFJs, and we shall win, for we have the element of surprise (and we know your army will arrive on schedule).

Fredrik said...

Great post! I am also an INTJ.

Natalie Swann said...

The new NCLS Research book Lead With Your Strengths has some interesting stats on the personality types of Australian church leaders (p147-155): 51% of Australian church leaders are introverts (you’re not as alone as you think!) and 6% are INTJ.
Natalie Swann (an associate NCLS Research researcher).

Simon.vibert said...

Great piece, thanks
I am rethinking my last Myers Briggs results!

Michael Kruse said...

Great post. Thanks for the link. I think you will really appreciate Adam's book.

But I'm wondering why you are coming out of the closet. As an INTJ, I find the closet one of the coziest places in the house. :-)

uno extranjero y peregrino said...

Danny Zacharias,

If I remember correctly, INTJ's are 'The Thinker' and although we dominate academia, we are grossly under-represented in the pastoral positions. The pastoral vocation naturally attracts people-persons, not idea-persons (if I am correct).

The real question is: what role do these personality tests play in our lives coram deo? They describe us, yes, but do they describe God's creational intent for us or do they describe us as we are found in our fallen state? Do we cater our lives to our 'personalities'? Or do we submit our 'personalities' (weaknesses and strengths) to the reality of the gospel? I guess my view is obvious...

Gordon Kennedy said...

Thanks for this post, and your blog. It took me a while to work up the nerve to take the test and guess what, I'm also INTJ.

José Solano said...

I'm a centrovert. I hope this doesn't hurt anyone's feelings but I think that spelling does matter. That should be extravert and not extrovert. That's a very common error. Take it from Jung who coined the term.

Personality Types said...

Hey I'm also an INTJ. I haven't met as many INTJs that are religious. A lot of the ones I know eventually left organized religion. I also yesterday came across an interesting post about how the church itself used to deal with INTJs who were in seminaries. I think a lot of INTJs have real strong feelings on all sides about religion