The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking
I loved this book. Susan Cain retraces her steps as she researched the introverted personality. It seems introversion and extroversion are innate in our personalities. She points to our past conduct guides like Pilgrim’s Progress “which warned readers to behave with restraint if they wanted to make it into heaven.” (Not exactly Bunyan’s point, but that’s how she interprets it.) Yet in our current American culture, extroversion is the ideal. Interestingly, she mentions trends in today’s churches. “Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert ideal to its logical extreme…If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love….it must be displayed publicly.” This trend may be changing with books like, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. I like following her train of thought when she asks, “to what degree is temperament destiny?” After all, though a Bill Gates may be in the spotlight often and handle himself well, he will never be a Bill Clinton who loves the spotlight. I loved her thorough research in that regard. Another helpful chapter dealt with human interactions and especially for marriages in which an extrovert marries an introvert. That was good.
The danger in this kind of book is that I found myself as a believer thinking too much of myself and my needs whether real or perceived. The same Bible is given to all of us introverts and extroverts with the same commands and exhortations. To be fair, Susan Cain would not advocate exalting self, but rather finding what is important and then using your strengths to accomplish the task. I suppose that’s what I do on a daily basis. Consider her conclusion: “Love is essential. Gregariousness is not…..” I think her main thrust is to educate the readers, but also to find ways to feed your own soul do you can accomplish what is important to you. Indeed, the Bible does teach us to rest and come away for prayer and study. In that sense, instrospection is good. But in a secular book, as always, the answers she finds are in this world and in the world you create for yourself. Contrast that with these biblical concepts: “Love not the world neither the things in the world” (1 John 2:15), or “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25-26). In the end, the strength we find comes from the Lord, not from our surroundings or our ability to arrange our circumstances.
For myself, I’d rather not take this book as a “know thyself” self-help book, but rather I could use it as a study in anthropology as we reach out to others. It was an exercise in evaluating strengths and weaknesses. As a Christian, as a ministry worker, we ought to do our best to engage and serve people of both stripes. To give to others in a meaningful way, it helps to know them. I hope there’s a book out there somewhere about extroverts. Lest I think too highly of my introverted self, I think I need to go read an Elisabeth Eliot book now.