More about introversion

We’ve already talked about how I’m a terrible introvert who scurries away after human contact and hides alone in order to recharge the emotional batteries. 85% of the human population is extraverted, and I honestly don’t understand that. It’s easier for me to write from the point of view of an undead Martian assassin with a gambling compulsion than it is for me to write an extravert.

One of my neighbors showed up at the bus stop looking pale, exhausted. I immediately offered to watch her child get on the bus so she could go home and crash. She said she would tough it out, then told me and the other mom what was going on. Many terrible things. But the strangest by far was that the act of telling us her problems, and interacting with us, restored her. When the bus came, she had rosy cheeks, bright eyes, and an easy laugh.ย 

To me, that’s incomprehensible. I trust that it works for others. I like people and I enjoy socializing, and my friends are awesome. But afterward, I need to recover.

By many accounts, Jesus was an introvert. He kept retreating into private to pray, and people who specialize in Myers-Briggs personality typing all agree that Jesus (like myself) was an INFJ. We INFJs make up one percent of the population, by the way, so the next time you wonder what Jesus was like, think of me, and then after you’ve picked yourself up off the floor, put a warm compress on the stitch in your side from laughing so hard, dry the tears of mirth, and never think of that again. You’ll thank yourself for it.

When I listened to the Word of Promise Next Generation Audio Bible MP3 set this Lent, all the stories ran one into the next into the next. Because it was audio, there weren’t little chapter breaks and story divisions with their own headers. Listening that way, I was just overwhelmed by the sheer number of crowds in the three synoptic Gospels. Just listening, I wanted to retreat and recover.ย 

If Jesus was really an INFJ, that must have been torture. Just being out there, “on stage” all the time, trying to find a quiet place and having people tracking him down, unable to regroup and just listen to that quiet inner voice for a little while. With kids it’s tough enough. With hundreds of people following your every move?

I have no idea how he did it. I’ve been to Comic-Con, I’ve been to anime conventions, I’ve ridden the New York subway system, but in none of those places did the crowd want me in particular. All that talking, the touching, the questioning, the noise-noise-noise… ย I wouldn’t have been able to do it.


  1. whiskers

    I, too, am an INFJ. I totally understand what you mean. Occasionally my husband is too much company for me. It makes home life very interesting on occasion…

  2. Illya

    We once knew a priest who was very dour, never smiling. Certainly not a “people person”. I remarked to my husband that I tought that he actually was abad exapmple–if that’s what closeness to God does to you, no thatnks! My husband said, “But you don’t know how much he struggles just to keep up the appearance he does” Years later, we found out that the priest had been ministering to an ill priest daily and faithfully for years. What no other person was willing to do, he was. So, if what you are saying is correct, and I believe that it is an astute observation, the Jesus was asked to give of Himself even more than we imagine. Great idea to meditate on. Thanks

  3. cricketB

    I recharge best when alone, but also need contact. I love connecting with an audience, and helping polish others’ performances, then come home and relax. I need the mix.

    I’m INTP, but only mild and moderate. I’ve mellowed. Answering as I would as a teenager gives INTJ, but moderate to distinctly. I’ve learned from bad experiences, and have more realistic expectations.

  4. Katherine Swarts

    At least there’s _one_ area (INFJ) where forming the image of Christ in me isn’t an uphill-all-the-way battle!

  5. Scott

    If 85% are extroverts, what do you think the percentage is of internet users? And how many of the introverts can write as eloquently as you? Even though you are introverted it seems like writing this blog recharges you (similar to your friend at the busstop who needed to vent)
    Is it the writing that does it or reading the comments and communicating indirectly?

  6. philangelus

    I think it’s the writing that does it. Writing is the perfect marriage between being sociable and living in my own misguided head.

    Sometimes the comments scare me, though. ๐Ÿ™‚ “AAGH! I have to reply!” followed by, “Jane, get over yourself.”

    I’ve noticed that introverts seem to gather more on the web, but more than that, N-types flock to the web and S-types seem to stay away. 85% of people are S types, but about half the folks on the web are S-types.

    And NF types and NT types seem to find one another with remarkable accuracy, which may be why we’re only about 15% of the population total and yet about 90% of my readership. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Deb

    And here’s another one…

  8. tgz

    I have tried one online quiz of those Myers-Briggs, but I do not remember exactly what I was. I know I was introverted, though not deeply introverted. Which is my experience. I sometimes need people time, but then suddenly I need to retreat into my head. (My friends are used, but in the future I will need an understanding spouse).

    I handle public speaking and performing well, and I have been a teacher, though. Just before class (or performance, or speaking) I get nervous, but then I enter “teacher mode” and it’s automatic. Then I leave “teacher mode” and get on introvert mode again.

    I am a special introvert, though. I speak a lot (of things that interest me) and am good in social situations. It’s just that if I wish to recharge I need to retreat to a lonely place or just meet a couple of very close friends. I can handle huge parties, but they exhaust me and I need to make an effort (usually by managing to start an intellectual discussion and then my analytical side takes over and it’s no longer a huge social gathering, at least not in my head, but just a wonderful opportunity for being a nerd ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

    The internet is great for us. Writing is way easier ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. tgz

    Ok, so I got curious and took a Myers-Briggs quiz. Specifically the Brutally honest personality test. And this is my result (which matched what I remembered): INFP: the Polyanna

  10. tgz

    (I am clearly I and N, not so clear on the other two, which I sort of remembered: I was destined to go online ๐Ÿ˜€ )

  11. fwtallgirl

    It makes total sense to me that Jesus would have to be an introvert/INFJ. He was put here to minister to all those people, to be “on stage,” and the only way He could find the peace to recharge was to be in solitary prayer, in communion with the part of Himself that was separate from His human form: God the Father. If Jesus had been an extrovert, it would have diminished Him as a teacher and leader, and would have made His task on Earth far more difficult, if not impossible, IMHO.

    1. philangelus

      I”ll have to think about that. It seemed the opposite to me initially, that if Jesus were extroverted it would have been easier to minister to hundreds of people and be “on stage” all the time. INFJs tend to be very choosy in whom they confide in, although I guess INFJs listen to anyone very easily. We do better in one-on-one situations.

      I haven’t looked up the ENFJ type, but I wonder if it would have made the changes you say… (More food for thought! Thanks!)

      1. fwtallgirl

        My thinking is that while it would likely have been easier to be around the masses, as you say, it would also have been harder for Him to keep the focus of His message where it needed to be. The separation of God the Son from God the Father surely would have left a need that could only be filled by that solitary communion in prayer. If an extrovert gathers strength just from being around other people, they might not feel that need to go to the well of God’s compassion to be refilled. Also, people might have been more entranced by a more outgoing personality and less focused on what He was trying to communicate to them.

        Just my opinion as a fellow introvert, of course… ๐Ÿ™‚ … although to be quite honest I kind of feel like this answer is coming from somewhere beyond me… a feeling I haven’t had in quite some long time.

  12. philangelus

    Oh, that makes total sense now! Yeah, an introvert would feel that irresistible tug to withdraw and spend time in prayer almost always, whereas an extrovert would want to commune with God on a different level.

    I think introverts and extroverts pray differently, to tell you the truth. Not better or worse, but the form would be different.

    (Funny thought: at least one of the things Satan used to tempt Jesus was an extrovert’s dream. Not that he’d have given in regardless, but it’s kind of odd. If you really want to tempt an introvert, offer her a library.)

  13. knit_tgz

    If you really want to tempt an introvert, offer her a library.

    My ex-boyfriend used to joke that I was with him for his books (not really, of course, but he did have a most attractive bookshelf filled with attractive books).

  14. Adry

    Oh, this discussion is AWESOME! It’s so cool to read other INFJ’s who “get” me! I didn’t realize introverts are only 15% of the population. No wonder I’ve always felt weird. I’m a former teacher married to an INTJ. The two of us are total hermits, and so much of our lives happen in our heads. Does busyness go with extrovertism? I ask because I always feel so lazy next to my extroverted mom. When we talk on the phone, she’s done a million things with her day, while I have nothing to report. It’s not that I don’t do stuff; it’s just that the interesting stuff happens mostly in my head…and it’s not the kind of stuff that makes for good chit-chat. Is that an introvert trait, too?

    As for having an “on stage” persona, absolutely! Like one of the other commenters, I used to teach school and have done a lot of public speaking. It’s great and I enjoy it, but it completely wipes me out. When I became a Christian a few years ago, I could totally relate to Jesus leaving the crowds to go off and pray all night. I once heard a minister preach on how lonely Jesus must have been to have no home to go to when others had their families. I’d say he was relieved to be able to spend the night alone with His Father. I know I find myself reversing my sleep schedule sometimes just to be alone at night with God when the whole world is safely asleep. It’s worth being sleepy the next day, for sure.

  15. Katherine Swarts

    Add me to the list of introverts who would be seriously tempted by the offer of a library. I was always the one who brought a book to meetings and gatherings, and I still wrestle with the temptation to rush through work so I can get in more reading time. Being a writer as well as a reader, I find a relevant analogy in the parable of the talents where the lazy servant buries his share instead of using it–too often, I’ve buried inside my brain the insights and knowledge I glean from reading, rather than take opportunities to use them for God’s glory through my own writing.

  16. Ken Rolph

    ATMs and the self-issue machine at the library are very handy. They enable daily activities without the necessity to engage with many strangers. It makes it easier to go out when you know you can limit the numbers of people you are forced to interact with.

  17. Katherine Swarts

    Being able to check yourself out at the library or store is great, but what I’d really like to see catch on is doctors’ Web sites where appointments can be made online. On the average clinic or hospital Web site you’re lucky to find even a Webmaster’s e-mail; and I absolutely hate navigating the phone menu of a large clinic and then having to explain to whomever finally answers which doctor I need and for what and when. Especially when we have to compare several appointment slots to find a mutually convenient time. Besides, it would make it easier to cover specific medical concerns if I were allowed to send them in writing in advance.

  18. cricketB

    Katherine, I love that idea. The theory was that a human could sort urgent from routine, so urgent goes first, and sick kids go during sick kids hours, and she could make sure you knew one appointment = one concern, but very few actually do that anymore.

  19. Ken Rolph

    We have had a family doctor for over half a century now. He’s getting on a bit, but his daughter is taking over his practice, and his son is our dentist. If we get put onto specialists, they are people he knows. If we go to a hospital, it is one he has a connection with. I sometimes try to imagine the US health care system, but then I stop because I don’t really like horror stories.

    When I was at university I read the works of Martin Buber, a philosopher. He talked about I-thou versus I-it relationships. Deeply personal human relationships versus functional ones. An American theologian called Harvey Cox took this further. It might have been in his book The Secular City. Cox suggested that in a large city we meet too many people in our ordinary lives to have deeply meaningful I-thou relationships. Yet we don’t want to de-humanise it to I-it relationships. Cox suggests that we can have I-you relationships. That is, they treat the other person as human, but without deep involvement and revelation to each other. These are the relationships you have with the shopkeepers, the postman, the regular bus driver, perhaps the neighbours.

    In a dense urban situation the number of I-you relationships dominate. For some people this is where all their problems lay. They are comfortable with their famiiy, they can handle things. But it is the constant negotiation with relative strangers that they find hard to handle.

    1. philangelus

      To take that one a bit further, Ken, an introvert would be VERY choosy about which individuals became I-Thou relations. But the I-You relations take the most energy. (I-Thou would have a higher startup cost, in other words.)

  20. Adam McHugh

    Forgive the blatant, shameless self-promotion, but I’ve written a book about introverts trying to navigate the Christian life and Christian community. It’s called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, and InterVarsity Press is releasing it in October/November.

    You can find out more here:

    1. philangelus

      Not a problem, but this is such an old entry, you might want to keep hanging around on this blog for the next time I mention introversion,a nd re-promote it then. ๐Ÿ™‚

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