Over at Christ and Pop Culture, you can read my latest review. It’s just a brief overview of Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Not mentioned in the review, but worth checking out is the part where she compares and contrasts a Tony Robbins workshop and a church service at Saddleback.
To help further the conversation, I thought I’d point you along to several other posts at Christ and Pop Culture that interact with the book and introversion in general:
The prevailing mainstream mentality is that wanting to be by oneself sometimes (or a lot) is selfish, anti-social, and ultimately broken. Yet Cain’s Quiet argues precisely the opposite. Throughout her text, Cain asserts that critical traits like creativity, exceptional achievement in any field (from technology to the arts to athletics), and ethical-decision making require working alone. It is in the intensely thoughtful, sometimes obsessive ruminations of introverts that the brightest ideas often occur—not in the ubiquitous group work that Cain says produces lots of ideas but few brilliant ones. Introverts and extroverts alike need to balance group interactions with time alone, a dualism known throughout monastic history as the active and contemplative lives.
The last few years have been pretty good for introverts. Researchers have found that activities usually regarded as “extraverted”—meetings, brainstorming, group work—are not nearly as effective or productive as people think they are, and that better results occur if you just leave people alone and let them work. A host of books, including Susan Cain’s acclaimed Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, have been published in recent years that proclaim the value that introverts bring to the world, and offer advice to introverts on how to be better and happier. There’s even a book—Adam S. McHugh’s Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture—on ministering to introverts in the Church and recognizing their unique gifts.
I’ve detected an underlying theme in these things: It’s an extravert’s world out there, and we introverts are just passing through as best we can, and hoping nobody talks to us along the way. Extraverts rule the world because, well, they’re extraverts, and they put themselves out there more often. What’s more, many of the economic, social, and power structures in place reward extraversion. Meanwhile, because introverts prefer to sit on the sidelines and in the shadows, we are marginalized and forgotten along with any gifts and contributions that we might bring to the table.
I immediately clicked on Jessica Lahey’s article “Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School” because I am both a teacher and an introvert. As far as the headline goes, I agree with Lahey’s argument as well as her premise—that the outside world demands dialogue and discussion, and educators who coddle children and never require them to speak ultimately do the children a disservice.
God created each of us with certain attributes, according to a sovereign plan and with a certain vocation, “[making] from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27). Temperament is an integral part of this calling, a fascinating divine ordainment. It is something to be praised, properly understood, and developed, and never an excuse to avoid personal growth.
This meme illustrates a frustrating misunderstanding of many of the qualities of introversion, painting them with a level of neediness that is much more aligned with base immaturity than the particular personality type in question. I was hoping that our culture was getting over some of its stigmas. But then a meme like this pops up, and I’m disheartened once again.