Full disclosure: I’m an introvert. Some people find that hard to believe because I like to talk to people. I describe myself as an introvert who likes people…I just need to recharge afterward.
However, I’ve learned the hard way that being an introvert and being missional can be difficult. Here are a few examples.
- Relationships — Hold on…you mean that in order to be missional I have to get to know people? Dang. I thought that I could just think more missionally and that would be good enough.
- Small Talk — There’s nothing more palm-sweat inducing for an introvert than small talk. It’s pointless and painful. But typical human interaction demands it, which means that in order to be missional introverts are going to have to figure out how to navigate conversations about pets, the weather, sports, and what not.
- Expending Energy — For an introvert relational energy is spent when we interact with others. Thus, we normally pick and choose who we spend that energy on. Being missional, however, means that we have to be open to whoever might need us in the moment, even if they haven’t quite made the cut in our book yet.
- Unknown Results — This one is related to the previous one because an introvert is more likely to expend energy in a relationship that he or she know is “worth it.” But being missional means giving of our time and energy even when we have no idea how it will play out. Just typing this is making me a bit anxious.
- Better in Community — All the missional practitioners say that it is better to do this in community. But lots of us introverts like to be a wolf pack of one. So it’s a pretty big ask for us to figure out how to live like a missionary with other people trying to live like missionaries!
- Being “Natural” — So a common fear among introverts is that we’ll look socially awkward. We all know that we are socially awkward in varying degrees but we try our best to hide it. So when some missional people tell folks to just be “natural” or do what “comes naturally,” some of us introverts can get confused! How do I act natural when I feel so unnatural!
- Valuing Others — Since a lot of us introverts understand that interacting with other people is taxing, we sometimes engage in cost-benefit analysis. So, we ask ourselves if interacting with a person will be worth the relational drain. Being missional means being open and ready to interact with anyone, even those who might cost us a lot!
- Active Listening — Now this one may just be me…but I sometimes find it really, really, really hard to listen to what someone is saying to me. I often drift off and start thinking about how I would rather be using this time or looking forward to some time alone to recharge. This isn’t good and I’m sure that people can see it on my face! Instead I need to listen actively to every conversation I’m in!
- Seeking to Understand — Most introverts have friends; we just have a few. We know how hard it was to come to understand our friends, so when we meet someone new it can be difficult to put in that same effort. So we might be tempted to think something like “I already have three friends, that’s enough.” Then we’ll just try to move through a conversation as quickly as possible instead of seeking to understand the other person. Being missional certainly involves carving out time for understanding!
- Facing the Fear of Embarrassment — A common fear for most of us introverts is to be embarrassed in public. We have nightmares about it…no really, I had one just last night about being embarrassed in front of someone whom I greatly respect. But being missional involves risk of all sorts, including embarrassment. When we start interacting with other people, we’re going to mess up and it’s probably going to be funny at times! This is just a risk we have to learn to live with.
I’m sure there’s a thousand more ways that being a missional introvert is hard. Let me know in the comments!