“Am I Introverted, or Just Rude?”
I’m not even entirely sure how I came across this article in The New York Times Sunday Review. Though I’d like to think of myself as a sophisticated intellectual type ever in pursuit of expanding her knowledge by way of impeccable journalism over breakfast (for God’s sake, I majored in literary journalism in college… well, briefly), it’s not like me to peruse the paper, not even digitally. My grandfather would be so proud.
Even though you won’t find me trading change for newsprint at the corner stand, you’re sure to find me touting the tenets of the introverted nature bestowed upon me by an online Myers-Briggs test.
“Hello, My Name Is INFJ.”
The “I” stands for—you guessed it—“introvert.” In other words, I like to walk museums alone, see movies by myself, and work on creative projects solo (like writing on this very blog). I read a lot and spend plenty of time in my own brain. I also prefer my dozen or so close, close friends who have known me through all the embarrassing high school years, formative college ones, and post-college, what-am-I-doing-with-my-life, #adulting stage. Quality over quantity, baby!
Although none of this is because I’m an introvert. Well maybe some of it, but technically, all my introverted tendencies mean is that I recharge by spending time with just me, myself, and I, and I am totally good with that… usually.
About a month or so ago, this introvert found herself sans community and feeling—gasp!—lonely. Confusion quickly followed.
You see, I hadn’t lost any of my friends. There had been no fighting or irritation or space needed. In fact, my dearest friends were still just as awesome as always, but all of a sudden they felt far away, scattered around the state and less available for the random, loving, close knit, stupid shit we always loved. Things had changed. I didn’t live with them anymore or see them weekly at class or church or work, and I really had to make an extra effort to feel connected and vice versa. But there’s only so much a phone call or coffee once or twice a month can accomplish. I was on an island.
And yet to add insult to injury, at the same time it felt like EVERYONE around me had these really easy, straightforward, loving, present groups of people ready to do life with them or jump into action when trouble arose with casseroles, prayers, girl time, and vacations to escape reality for a bit when it became painful. What the?
(NOTE: This petulant attitude is not becoming of fruits of the spirit or of my joyful heart in Christ or of adulthood in general. That should’ve been my first indication that something was off. Also, social media doesn’t help anything either.)
In fact, one night the unfairness felt so raw that I melted down in front of my poor boyfriend. As embarrassing as I thought it was to be in that place, it felt good to acknowledge where I was at, let the air out of the balloon so to speak, and he listened sweetly and concluded that for the first time since maybe the beginning of high school, I really had to work at community. He was totally right, but where does an introvert-who-supposedly-isn’t-made-for-making-new-friends even start?
Sometime in the midst of both the aching and the sulking, the tears and the epiphanies, I found The New York Times article with the provocative title and I asked myself, “Am I introverted, or just rude?”
What I found after reading it was that I was the latter: JUST RUDE.
The article’s assertion was that society’s exaltation of the introvert (whether right or wrong is not up for debate here), has given permission in some ways for individuals to check out socially. Guilty as charged.
“Then came the introversion explosion, led by Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Suddenly, a resistance to social intercourse became, not just acceptable, but cool.”
In some ways, the article claimed, this social evolution excused bad manners or preferences away from engaging with community. Though it wasn’t blanketing introverts as lazy antisocialites, it definitely raised some interesting points and some major conviction in me.
As I faced myself in this place, I realized that my introverted nature was a crutch that kept most people at a distance. For me, being an introvert gave me an excuse not to enter the small discomfort of small talk with someone I didn’t know yet. I’d rationalize that, “I have plenty of close friends. I don’t have to invest in any others, I’m at capacity.” Without truly meaning to, I’d become just rude, closed-off. NO VACANCY.
All that had brought me was this deep loneliness and an ache for community befitting the tenets of my faith. Therein lay the tension for me: I wanted a heart after God’s own, and what I had wasn’t it. By His grace, I was at the very least aware of the “not-right-ness” of it all, that things weren’t as they should be.
Days later, I felt the word HOSPITALITY swimming around in my head, and it felt important, something I should really say attention to. Hospitality feels true of my Creator, reflective of His character.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” Isaiah 55:1
“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Rev. 22:17
I’m still letting it marinate in the curvy, noodle-y bits of my brain, but I already feel a shift. With His hospitality in mind first, this introvert is trying her damnedest to lean into the social discomfort, enjoy the small talk, look forward to the new faces, and invest in those around me.
And I’ll be honest, I’m really, really enjoying it.