Now every popular article about introverts currently making the rounds on social media emphasises the modern insight that introversion isn't about whether or not you like people - there are many introverts, the articles say, who love being social - but the key is whether gain or lose energy when you interact in social settings. Extraverts come away from parties full of energy; introverts come away drained even though they enjoyed the party.
But I'm the "classical" kind of introvert. I am socially shy, conversationally awkward, preferring written communication to verbal communication. I find it hard to make friends. I can easily spend hours doing an activity by myself, not distressed by the lack of either sunlight or fellow humans. I don't seek out opportunities to interact with others, and if I can avoid it, I do. In a conversation with another person I tend to say very little, and in a group I say almost nothing at all. I'm not very excitable, or emotional, or expressive.
Except that none of those things really reflect me - not any more.
When I joined a youth group in late high school, I experienced a community more joyful, more friendly, and more sincere than any group I had ever seen before. From the first day, others came alongside me and showed genuine interest in me - including those that I would later find out were "introverts" as well. And from that day, God was working a change in me.
Once I had experienced this joyful Christian community, it was self-evidently better than anything else I knew. And it meant that I had to change. No longer could I think that it was better for me to keep to myself, to avoid strangers, to do what came most naturally to me.
I had come to youth group a good number of times and was "settled in" when one night, one of the leaders pointed out to me someone else sitting by himself on the side of the room, suggesting that I go and introduce myself to him. If this leader hadn't approached me, I would have never noticed this teenager sitting by himself. Even if I had noticed, I would never have thought that I should be the one to introduce myself to him. Yet there I was, doing what I would have never thought to do, talking with this stranger at youth group.
Years later, I am now part of a joyful church community where we regularly see visitors come through the doors. When they do, my natural instinct is to come to them with a smile and to welcome them to church. I work in a people-oriented job where it is not uncommon to meet tens of new people in a day, several days a week. I chat to strangers, befriend people who are very different to me, and make lots of small talk. I have deep, personal conversations with many different people, most days of the week.
Do I get drained by all the social interaction? Yes. But not as much as I used to be.
Do I sometimes withdraw and act like a hermit? Yes. But not as much as I used to.
Am I socially awkward and shy? I AM SO AWKWARD. But I think I'm better than I used to be.
Am I still an introvert? By golly, yes!
If you are an extravert, you probably think there is nothing wrong with me - perhaps aside from the times that you notice me being a little quiet or tired. If you are an introvert, you probably think I am either the awkwardest person you have ever met, or a crazy person who doesn't know what's good for himself, or a traitor to the league of introverts who say, "You must be true to your introvert self!" To which I say, "Stuff you, introversion! I belong to Christ, and he is making me love other people more than I love myself."
And I am all the more joyful for it.