As a happy introvert who is very comfortable living with books and plants and, yes, TV, I am horrified and convicted by this quote by Jean Vanier, one of Henry Nouwen’s mentors.
“Community can be a terrible place because it is a place of relationship; it is the revelation of our wounded emotions and of how painful it can be to live with others, especially with ‘some people.’ It is so much easier to live with books and objects, television, or dogs and cats! It is so much easier to live alone and just do things for others, when one feels like it…. While we are alone, we could believe we loved everyone.” From Community and Growth
I believe in being who God made me to be – an introvert, a “mastermind” (in the Keirsey Temperament Sorter) with the spiritual gifts of leadership, administration, faith and teaching. I am working hard to replace the false narrative from my family and the churches of my earlier years which taught me: “Yes, God loves me, but God will love me even more if I work harder and do better.” Ugh! I cringe as I write that, knowing how harmful that perception was to me.
But I do so agree with Vanier that “it is easier to live alone and just do things for others when one feels like it.” How do I walk the line between being me and being in community and available to others? Living like Jesus isn’t always easy – even at the ripe old age of 70!
Oh, and for those of you who are introverts, be sure to read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
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Your comment confirms why this quote was convicting for me. I’m still learning when withdrawing is the necessary step for me to refuel the energy that drains when I am surrounded by people and when it is “laziness” and “reluctance”
This is a terribly convicting quote. I have really struggled in the last few months with my “introversion” (knowing that there are no pure introverts or pure extroverts…it’s always a spectrum) as a Christian. Does the inclusive, expansive Good News of God permit me to withdraw when I “feel” like it? Does my baptism into the covenant family of God allow me to spend my energies inwardly? I think there is a need for the ever-elusive balance, and that we have a model rhythm of engaging and withdrawing in the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus. However, I think that many of the moments I “feel” like “introvert time” are more due to my laziness or reluctance to interact with others. A good word, thank you.