Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spiritual Formation and Extroverts

I while back I wrote a post about a conversation with my friend Lisa. Through our local seminary she was enrolled in a study program in the area of Spiritual Formation. And she was putting the finishing touches on a dissertation exploring spiritual formation practices designed for extroverts.

American culture as a whole and American churches in particular tend to cater to and reward extroversion and ignore or punish introversion. Except, that is, in the key areas of personal growth and spiritual formation. This is where introverts shine. They write books and lead sessions on how, if you want to become a mature Christian, you have to go off by yourself alone with a journal and be silent and listen to God.

Sounds like a good idea, but is that the way it has to be? Are there ways to tweak the traditional spiritual disciplines in a way that they are not such a struggle, and actually work, for those who are extroverts?

For more about Lisa's research, what motivated it, and what she discovered, read her summary Spiritual Formation and Extroverts.

By the way, I am an extrovert, but the way I prefer to "talk" is on paper (or, more accurately, computer screen) and in public. I don't want a private journal, I want to communicate. In a soul-searching season around the time I turned 30 I wrote a 40-page autobiography. Very personal stuff, but fairly well organized and processed and in search of a plot. I didn't lock it up with instructions that it was to be burned after my death, as I have a hunch a true introvert might do. Instead I chose some highly trustworthy friends and asked them to read it and tell me what they thought it meant.


Megan Noel said...

how did you end up with an introverted twin? and do you think people can change from one to the other?

Marti said...

Well, at least the MBTI gurus say you don't actually change, though at different times of your life you may think something is expected of you that causes you to represent yourself - even to yourself - differently than you otherwise would. Do you think you were introverted as a five year old? As a ten year old?

Megan Noel said...

i am not sure if i was at 5. at 10, yes. i think so. interesting, some things do start early maybe. i can already tell finn (3) is an introvert and ingrid (5) is not. i've know taylor for, i thin 7 or 8 years? starting at age 5. she was an introvert then, and she still is now. if she is at the park and other kids come she leaves.

Marti said...

Both our kids are introverts. C. sometimes speaks of the ways this is expressed as if it is a flaw or sign of immaturity, as if grown-up people are supposed to be outgoing, externally oriented, articulate, leaders, etc. Well, some introverts are all those things, but they get there through a different process and the mental/emotional cost is probably higher? I think the kids can develop greater strength in those areas. But their introverted =preferences= will likely not go away. I'm trying to listen for and find ways to honor D's desire for alone time, etc. He does enjoy other people and is wonderfully sensitive to other people's feelings, something I appreciate very much. Many extroverts have a harder time at that!

Megan Noel said...

one can learn to be an introvert with social skills. as for D ... not sure if this would work w/ him but if someone just asked me if i needed time alone i'd be happy to answer. it could avoid misunderstandings.