The Misperceptions of Extrovert “Introversion”

Are you a misunderstood extrovert?

I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jesus was extroverted. He was an outgoing expressive person. Jesus was always among the crowds—always followed, speaking, and feeding. But, at times, I bet his extroversion was misperceived.

If we utilize today’s definition of introvert, someone that gravitates toward being alone as the primary form for relaxation, rejuvenation, and resting, Jesus would probably have been perceived as one due to his frequent custom of withdrawing to desolate places to be alone (Mt. 14:13; Mk. 1:35, 6:31; Lk. 4:42, 5:16). While Jesus fed the masses, he also often walked away from the crowds, and ridiculed the religious elite.

On the other hand, extroverts are perceived as happy, outgoing, and energetic people—they love being around people—this energizes them. So, if Jesus was extroverted, why did he remove himself?

While impossible to know the mind of God, it is more than likely that Jesus found his strength, discernment, clarity, rest, and rejuvenation during his alone times with the Father. But, if he took the gifting and profile tests we currently partake, introvert would be the result. In fact, some would say that because Jesus found “recharging” via isolation that he would be the true definition of an introverted person (i.e. demanding seclusion).

Yet, Jesus’ moments of withdrawal to be alone should not define him as an introvert (or an Extrovert-Introvert). There’s an interesting dynamic within apostolic leadership that I’ve observed (among my own behaviors)—along with naturally extroverted people. 

Here’s two observations.

Extroversion Demands Introversion

Jesus directed the Apostles to “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mk. 6:31). Naturally, we all need rest. Without rest, burnout is sure to come. The extrovert is no exception to the rule—they are, indeed, the need for the rule.

Subsequently, with naturally outgoing people—true extroversion—their daily draw to be around people and interact is where they thrive. It’s their “ignition zone” and passion of life. 

For the apostolically gifted extrovert, they are thriving, energetic, and network-driven people that will find themselves recharging—not in the crowds, but in seclusion. For this reason, they must be aware of utilizing seclusion as a spiritual discipline.

For the naturally extroverted person that engages people and groups daily, filling schedules with meetings, gatherings, and socials, will require unplugging and morphing into a temporary hermit—perhaps an hour or so, each day. This hermitage is a necessity to prevent burnout and keep the joy of living within community, strong. 

But, on the other end, if you place an extrovert in isolation for too long—depression will sit in. While extroverts demand introversion for recharging, they must be aware of what may be causing the need for the introversion. Is it hard-work, crowds, or something else?

Why Extroverts may be Perceived as Introverts

—The “something else.”

One of my observations of extroverted crowd loving people—is that they may not “like” everyone in those crowds (think Jesus and the Pharisees/Sadducees). For the extrovert, judgmental and negative people turn them off—quickly—and in like manner, they may receive the extrovert’s “off-switch.” To silence an outgoing, naturally communicative person—may not be a good thing.

Because extroverts need interaction, conversation, and dwelling among people, they tend to pick up rather quickly on human behaviors and negative people. Basically, they can see through fake people in an instant. As a result, extroverts will tend to immediately withdraw from negative, narcissistic, and nippy individuals.

The extrovert’s withdraw may be perceived as introversion— (i.e. “they always want to be alone when I see them; they never want to gather with us.”). Extroverts thrive off of positive feedback.  

What’s the Answer?

As a naturally gifted (apostolic) extrovert, I have realized that people will seriously misperceive my behaviors. To some, I will seem way too outgoing—usually the ones that see me working within my daily giftedness. I’ve had people tell me that I “wear my heart on my sleeve.”

But to others—those who see me in my off-time or around negative people—they may perceive me to be a recluse. When you’re off, all that you want to do is be alone. Or, why don’t you talk with such and such people? I realize that I shut out negativity—indeed—it’s a hard door slam!

So, what’s the answer? 

We have to learn to cultivate our natural gifting. I’ve learned to give my time to where it is most utilized and most needed. As well, I’ve learned that if I do not have those times of “desolate” recharging that my life is off-kilter. And, if I’m surrounded by prolonged negativity it squashes my innovative, outward, and outgoing personality. 

I’ve learned to be “slow to speak and quick to listen” (James 1:19). And so, I’ve learned to navigate the daily rhythms of life, with Jesus. 

Anointed & Appointed for Community Mission

“Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them” (Numbers 11:26).

During the forty-year desert wandering of Israel, things were not so easy. Admittedly, things are not so easy today. And, not unlike our own “wandering” in the wilderness of our faith, seeking a “not-yet” Promised Land, Israel began to complain about God’s provision. Let’s be honest, we grumble far too often.

But, the account in the book of Numbers demonstrates how God obligates Himself to humanity, for His mission. Before we dive into the anointing and appointing, we should recognize that God meets out needs, not necessarily our wants. He is Jehovah Jireh (the LORD our Provider).

Throughout the Exodus, the Israelites complain about the constant and mundane supply of manna. Instead, they yearn for meals they prepared during their Egyptian captivity. The leader, Moses, is mentally and physically exhausted. He’s nearly burned out from the constant complaining and the never satisfied attitudes of the people he’s leading. 

I believe many leaders can relate to Moses’ troubles. He is grieved with leadership-despair. Moses cannot handle the encumbrance of the masses, he pours out his heart to the Lord, “The burden is too heavy for me” (Num. 11:14). And yet, in the midst of God’s displeasure with the people, the Lord hears the cries of Moses.

Yet, one biblical foundation that is repeated, the Lord’s hand is never weakened or shortened (11:23); meaning, there is nothing too hard for God or too exhausting for Him to handle.

As leaders, times of replenishment are vital, but so is delegation. We were not meant to bear the burdens of life, ministry, or mission alone. Jesus expresses this when he declares, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

Thus, the Lord instructs Moses to gather seventy elders among the people. The elders will become “anointed and appointed” leaders. God promises to “take some of the Spirit” that is on Moses and lay it upon the seventy (11:17). Again, we read how God obligates Himself of the problem by providing grace, power, and wisdom. 

A great contrast can be seen. Instead of being satisfied with God’s provision (manna), the people crave and lust after food from their enslavement. In retrospect, God doesn’t give the people what they want (or crave), but what they need. Likewise, when the Lord responds to Moses’ leadership dilemma, he doesn’t provide Moses with extra power. Instead, God anoints and appoints 70 Spirit-filled community leaders, taking from Moses. 

As the seventy elders gather before the tent of meeting with Moses—the Lord comes down in a cloud and anoints the elders. They begin to prophesy! However, not all of the prophesying leaders are at the tent. Two of the leaders never arrive—they remain in the community. Meanwhile, “a young man [Joshua] ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp!” (11:26). 

While Joshua is confused and a bit jealous, Moses understands God’s mission and wisdom—to fill His people with the Holy Spirit as they live among one another. Eldad and Medad— were two anointed and appointed leaders for community mission (Missio Communitas). Moses declares, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Num. 11:29). 

Indeed, God has brought to fulfillment the snapshot of Eldad and Medad; He has answered Moses’ prophetic word. As recorded in the book of Acts, Peter stands before the entire assembly at Pentecost and recites from the prophet Joel:

“And in the last days it shall be, God declares, 

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, 

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, 

and your young men shall see visions, 

and your old men shall dream dreams; 

even on my male servants and female servants; 

in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy” 

(Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28-29).

As believers of Jesus Christ, we are all anointed and appointed for community mission. While the place and people we serve among may look different, every believer of Christ has been anointed and appointed by the Spirit of the living God for community mission. We’re appointed to weep, rejoice, breathe, eat, sleep, and live among the downtrodden, broken, displaced, and disparaged. God’s children are gospel-centered and Spirit-empowered (John 1:12).

In agreement with Moses’ declaration, I wish that all believers are like Eldad and Medad, prophesying and speaking the Word of God within their communities. And more than that—living as anointed and appointed Spirit-filled people.