Are you a misunderstood
I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jesus was an extrovert—an outgoing expressive person. Always among the crowds—always followed, speaking, and feeding. But I bet his extroversion was misperceived, at times.
If we utilize today’s definition of introvert, Jesus would have been perceived as one because of his frequent need to withdraw to desolate places to be alone (Mt. 14:13; Mk. 1:35, 6:31; Lk. 4:42, 5:16). Often, Jesus walked away from the crowds, or downright blasted the religious elite.
Extroverts are perceived as happy, outgoing, and energetic people. So, why did Jesus remove himself?
More than likely, Jesus found his strength, discernment, clarity, rest, and rejuvenation during his alone times. If he took the gifting and profile tests we currently endure, he might be labeled as an introvert. 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).
But, Jesus’ moments and need for 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 needfor the rule.
But 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 fire for living.
For the apostolically gifted extrovert, they are such thriving, energetic, and network-driven people that they 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 their schedules with meetings, gatherings, and socials, they will need to unplug and morph into a 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 interacting, conversing, and living 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 negativism.
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.