Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity


We’re Not All Extroverts — and Introverts Aren’t Abnormal

posted by Carolyn Henderson

She ran and jumped and played and yelled, and afterwards she did math, wrote essays, and read books. Wild Child, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

We live in a society fascinated by psychology, and every week there’s a new mental aberration to add to the list, buy medication for, and wonder if we have. And while actual diseases and issues exist, there are undeniably natural aspects of being a human being that for some reason — money always comes to mind — we are told are abnormal now, and we need to stop.

With four children running about the house, it’s a given that one of them would be more active than the others, and even as homeschoolers we didn’t live under a rock. Like all parents of active children, the Norwegian Artist and I had heard of — and been not so subtly urged to do something about it — ADHD, and what we chose to do after reviewing the information and carefully looking at our child, was to say no to drugs prescribed for behavior that 35 years ago was considered acceptable. (The more complete story is at my article, Learning Disabilities: Does My Child Have One?)

Ultimately, every person is responsible for making the decision best for them and the people in their charge, a little fact that tends to get overlooked in a society of bountifully paid experts.

Abnormally Active and Weirdly Quiet

Highly active behavior amongst people who sit too much isn’t the only thing considered abnormal these days. We were enjoying lunch with a group of dear, long-term friends when one of them commented,’

“I’m rather quiet in large groups of people. I’ve always been shy and introverted.”

Before we pull out the prescription bottles, I’d like to say three things:

1) It’s not abnormal to be quiet in large groups of people. Many individuals find it discomforting when everyone scrapes their chairs back, turns around, and stares; in the silence, we then speak. Other individuals find it challenging to converse, intimately and privately, with one person. Only the first behavior is considered “abnormal” in today’s society.

2) All people find some social situation, somewhere, discomforting. They do not need to label themselves shy, which, if you want to get specific, addresses such a reluctance to interact in social situations that it becomes debilitating.

Some people have a real problem with Quiet, and they solve this by labeling quiet people as weird. On the Horizon, original oil painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

3) Introversion is not a mental disease. We are all a combination of introversion and extroversion, and no one way of being is the “right” way.

We Need More Normal People Like This One

(I’ll add a fourth observation that, after years of knowing my friend, I would describe her as sensitive, thoughtful, intellectual, intelligent, caring, and perceptive, one of those highly unusual human beings who actually listens to other people talk, and asks questions that confirm she has been paying attention. If this is abnormal, we need a whole lot more of it.)

For a complete, thoughtful presentation on the concept of introverts, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I discussed elements of this books years ago in a series of articles for artists, and was amazed at the sheer quantity of people who commented along the lines of:

“I’ve always been quiet, and I’ve always been afraid that I was abnormal.”

Since when did the ability to shut up and not feel compelled to commandeer the attention of everyone in the room become bad behavior?

Everyone Is Different

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that we are all different — we’re constantly nagged to celebrate those differences and be free to be you and me and all that, but when it comes to actually doing so, we have a strong societal opinion about what it means to be truly normal, and most of us don’t fit it. And so we deal with this conundrum:

1) Unless you quietly sit at your desk and fill out workbook sheets, one after another with neat tidy writing, you are hyperactive and need medication

and

2) Unless you get up in front of the crowd and tell one funny story after another, you are abnormally shy and need therapy.

Yep, that’s simplistic, but it’s not inaccurate. Too many people — too many normal people — label themselves as psychological deviants because they’re quiet.

Mary, Martha — Peter, John

In the Bible, Mary was quiet; Martha was not. Jesus loved them both, and there is much to be learned from each of them.

The Apostle John was quieter than the Apostle Peter, but both have their place, their ministry, and their voice. While I’ve always admired Peter’s impetuosity and boldness, I find great wisdom in the deep thoughts of John. I know I am not the only one.

You are who you are — quiet, noisy, thoughtful, brash, reflective, exuberant — and you are not just one thing: you are a complex, complicated, intricately designed human being. Only you can do the tasks God has set out for you, because only you are . . . you.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. We get attacked a lot, in this world, for being who and what we are, and my writings encourage you to go directly to your Maker and ask Him for the usage and care instructions.

Posts similar to this one are

Money, Power, Fame and Name

A Nobody Who Was Somebody (Like You, or Me)

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  • Pingback: Anxious and Troubled about Many Things - Commonsense Christianity

  • http://thiswomanwrites.areavoices.com/ Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, Kathleen. Human society classifies and puts in order people, based upon values and standards that are not necessarily valid, and definitely not eternal or permanent. It’s such a challenge, figuring out the difference between man’s thoughts and God’s (too often we think the standards He applies are the ones that we would use), but it’s a worthy endeavor. The more we understand God, the more we realize how much He loves us.

  • http://thiswomanwrites.areavoices.com/ Carolyn Henderson

    Susan Cain’s book did a great thing indeed, Cindy — it showed, through research and intellect, that being an introvert isn’t a lesser thing — along the way that people used to think about women (and still do, in some cultures), that they were “lesser” than men.

    Obviously, if the world were filled only with men, the human race wouldn’t last much longer. We need both genders. In the same way, we need quiet people and noisy people and everyone in between, and in a perfect world, we could come to a point that we would describe people, but not label them. You are not an introvert or an extrovert — You are Cindy, created by God and much beloved by Him. — Carolyn

  • http://redcarpetlife.me Cindy

    My whole life I thought (because people told me) that I was an extrovert. As a worship leader, speaker and general outgoing person I spend a lot of time in front of people. Susan Cain’s book actually is what made me realize that I am an introvert, and that its OK! It’s not a bad thing to be an introvert.

    Best… Cindy.

  • http://GoodJob! Kathleen

    I liked this! It’s true: “We are all a combination of introversion and extroversion, and no one way of being is the “right” way.”
    Thank you!

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