My husband once worked as a substance abuse counselor in Michigan. The center where he counseled made use of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory assessment, a psychometric test of personality that scores people along eight diagnoses: hypochondria, hysteria, depression, hysteria, psychopathic deviation, gender interests, paranoia, anxiety, schizophrenia, hypomania, and introversion.
After many years the director of the program decided to drop the evaluation method in favor of the Myers-Briggs personality test.
I’m sure there are many ways to evaluate personality, and all have strengths and weaknesses. But I was intrigued by the reason why the boss eventually parted ways with the MMPI. It was because of the last area of measurement: “social introversion.”
In the MMPI there is at least the implicit suggestion that introversion is undesirable, whereas extroversion is desirable. But is that necessarily so? It is easier to see that hypochondria and hysteria and depression and the others are bad, but is it an aberration of nature to be introverted? If it is, then it is good to counsel someone out of it. But didn’t God make some to be introverts and some to be extroverts?
Was John the Baptist an introvert? I hope so. He sure spent a lot of time alone in the ministry God chose for him. Was not his personality suited to his career? Jeremiah was “formed in the womb” for a very particular ministry. (By the way, he didn’t have many friends either. There was Baruch …)
Where the rubber meets the road in our opinion of whether introversion is dysfunctional is in cases like the following: There was a man in a prison Christian prayer support group who was continually bypassed as a leader of the group. As a result, the inmate felt worthless in the kingdom of God: If he could not be a leader, what value could he possibly have? One day a more insightful brother pointed out to the man that although he did not have the gifts of a leader, he had well-developed gifts of empathy that the leader may not have had.
It was a revolutionary and empowering realization for that inmate when he finally understood that gifts are varied and complementary and that God has not called one gift better than the other. A man is no better or worse if from his seat on a train he chooses to look at cows instead of people.
Fellow introverts! Let us be pleased with the personalities God has given us, and let us resist envy:
“[W]hen they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12, ESV).