by Randy Kosloski
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I once went to see one of my favourite writers give a public lecture and was terribly disappointed. I assumed that all great writers, such as myself, would inevitably make great speakers, but I was wrong. The opposite phenomenon is also prevalent where great speakers get employed as writers but turn out to be subpar. Part of the reason good writers do not necessarily make great speakers is because writers are most often introverts. They are people who spend a lot of time in their head, alone, thinking, and need time to put coherent and compelling ideas together. The act of writing allows one to do these very things; the act of speaking does not. Great speakers are very often extroverts, people who gain encouragement and energy from the crowd. Though there are some introverts who make great speakers they usually become great speakers through painstaking preparation and practice. Likewise, there are extroverts who make great writers but it is not often their natural skill, but instead a well-honed craft. King David was a brilliant writer, a subdued speaker, and an unassuming legend, and was most likely an introvert. By contrast Peter was an impassioned people person who was foundational in the Christian Church and was likely an extrovert. Both stepped outside of comfort because they were called to do so and, as a result, unbreakable Godly foundations were built.
I am an introvert myself so I can say this: the main thing I dislike about introverts is that many spend a lot of time feeling inferior to extroverts. In not so extreme cases they develop anxiety and depression because they believe they are somehow glowing like beacons in their insecurity in every social situation. About half of the population is introverted; some surveys suggest more than half. So of the 5 people that read this article 2 or 3 are likely introverts. And though those 2 or 3 are as capable socially as the other 2 or 3 people, if you put them in a room together, the introverts would likely feel inferior. What our society values in ambition, eloquence, and aggressiveness are not natural to introverts. But as Susan Cain demonstrates in her book ĎQuietí, introverts make a more reserved but still epic contribution to the social, academic, and business areas of every culture, throughout history. King David is one such example.
The extroverts of the Bible are a little harder for me to unearth. The Living Word is primarily a written document, thus it is likely that the human contribution to it was largely an introverted contribution. Still, I look to Simon/Peter as an extrovert. I conclude Peterís extroversion based on the fact that he is known largely for his actions with respect to the church, and not his ideas and writings. Peter is a man of action, impulsive action at times, like extroverts can sometimes be. Extroverts are not often satisfied to simply listen and take in, they need to be involved. The student who asks barely relevant questions in class is an extrovert needing to be engaged. The coach who nearly leaps into the game to help his team, the man who cuts off the ear of a soldier prepared to arrest his Leader, he is an extrovert. I know that Jesus understood Peterís extroversion when he asked him to be the ďrock on whom (He) would build (His) Church.Ē Jesus knew that in the early stages of the faith, that people would be apt to follow the man who passionately, if not impulsively, seeks and does the will of God.
Both personality types are necessary for the work of God. David helps to create notable introverted contributions to Godís great design. A most profound contribution is that of the Psalms. The Psalms are eternal and quoted far outside of the Jewish and Christian faiths because of how beautifully they capture the human relationship with God. Another and perhaps more substantial introverted contribution, is Davidís example of repentance. Being an introvert David is particularly able to look inward, to be introspective and realize that he has fallen and needs to be picked up. After Nathan points out Davidís sin to him with Bathsheba, David immediately falls to his knees in sorrow. No blaming anyone else, no rationalizing, just repentance. This is an act that has been recreated in art an allegorical stories ever since. These examples highlight Godly introversion.
By contrast, introspection is one of Peterís weaknesses. Peter needs a prophecy and he needs to deny Jesus three times in order to see his error. Peter, the extrovert has not failed here, but his weakness is revealed and through it we also see Godís strength.
Peterís strength is revealed when he thunders forward, compelled by the spirit, to build the church, when it makes no rational sense to do so. The steps that Peter takes to continue the church would have been natural pursuits. For instance, it would have been imperative for the early church members to stay connected with each other. Like the small groups and home churches of today, the exercise of community would have been pivotal for Peter and his peers. Community came naturally to Peter. Bringing everyone together to pray and encourage is just another day for a Christ following extrovert. The other real extroverted strength revealed through Peter is his will to action. When the spirit fills Peter he does not retreat into solitude and reflection, he engages with it and engages with the community. Reflection and solitude can be marvelous things but they were not what God wanted at that time God wanted what Peter had, passion and engagement, hallmarks of extroversion.
Engagement is one of Davidís weaknesses. David stayed back from the war for too long and fell into sin. I believe that it was not Davidís solitude that rushed him toward temptation but it was his indulgence in it; his lingering too long that was his downfall. David also fails to engage and confront his sons when they run rampant, arrogantly doing as they will. Human, introverted weakness is exposed in these examples and God reveals the truer path.
Despite Godís knowledge and likely consideration of Peterís and Davidís personalities, his role for them fell outside of their typical preferences. David was asked to be a leader. God showed David to the Jewish elders long before David was ready to lead. While he was an unrefined, introverted, day dreamy, isolated shepherd, God told people in the Jewish community that this solitary boy was a King. David, the introverted recluse, is named the successor to the, likely extroverted, imposing Saul. Though the role is outside of his comfort, God only asks that David be his introverted, thoughtful self in that role. So God turns His peopleís notion of leadership on its ear and reveals the truer path as He works through people committed to Him.
Who would ever volunteer to be the foundation of the church. I am fairly certain that Peter would not have, if he had thought about it. Fortunately for the world, Peter was not a big thinker, he was a doer. When he takes on the role as his passionate and impulsive self, God gives another example of what can be accomplished through those committed to Him. The intellect, thoughtfulness, education, and meditation that were respected in religious leaders in Christís time were not what God was seeking as the foundation of His church. These respected assets were secondary when compared to the zeal for Christ which Peter possessed and shared in extroverted, seat of his pants way. And so the wild wonderful church began to take shape.
My Myers-Briggs personality type is INTP. My type are commonly referred to as the absent-minded professors. Like most people I tend to gravitate toward roles that fit my personality and I shun those roles that do not. The Bible shows that occasionally those who seek God can be called to roles that are outside of their personality orbit. However, the Bible also teaches that despite our own perception of how we must fulfill a specific role, God only calls us to be our committed selves in that role. Often people shy away from evangelism because they believe they need to be charismatic and they are not, people shy away from debate because they believe they need to be intellectual and they are not, or they shy away from leading Godís people out of Egypt because they believe they need to be eloquent and they are not. Being ourselves in a role that is outside of our natural inclination allows God to reveal the truer path. So be the introspective King like David or the impulsive church founder like Peter but in all of it seek God and He will use the failures and success of those committed to Him to paint the perfect picture.
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