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Can Feeling Awkward be a Spiritual Problem?

Can Feeling Awkward be a Spiritual Problem?

As an introvert, I savor every moment of quiet I can scrounge throughout my days filled with two tiny people. When I hear others playing the game, “If You Were Stuck on a Deserted Island, What Would You Bring?” I want to interject with, “Wait, where exactly is this place and how can I book my reservations?” Solitude is how I recharge.

While there is nothing sinful about needing separation from people in order to rest, my introverted personality is prone to certain temptations when it comes to the biblical command to love my neighbor. I often faced these temptations as I attempted to pray for, meet and love my actual neighbors.

While these temptations might not apply to all introverts, I want to share three that I personally struggle with.

The temptation to hoard my time instead of being willing to sacrifice it on behalf of others.

I quickly become bitter when someone asks more of my time than I would like to give him or her. Even if my own downtime is more important than what is being asked of me, I am tempted to make up excuses why I can’t join, rather than honestly explaining that I need to rest.

My neighbor might not have answered the door earlier, but she was standing in front of me right this minute, offering an invitation for us to spend time together now. While I wanted to spend quality time with her, the invitation didn’t feel convenient anymore; it felt like it was intruding on my sacred hour of peace on earth.

Guilt showed up again. Not because I don’t ever need “me time.” But at the expense of serving others or loving others, me time can become an idol in and of itself.

The temptation to avoid others out of fear of being awkward.

Being an introvert does not mean I am always a weirdo around people, but one time I literally steered my kid’s stroller in the opposite direction from a neighbor who could have used my set of jumper cables to start their car. While part of me wonders if the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan were actually just introverts who felt afraid to utter the first “hello,” the other part of me knows that the needs of my neighbor should come before how comfortable I feel while lending them a helping hand.

I know it’s OK for me to feel peculiar in new crowds and around new people. I know the body of believers needs all types and that the 11th commandment is not, “Thou shalt becometh more sociable, thus says the Lord.” But the fact that I allow my introverted personality to keep me from lending a helping hand because it requires human interaction is flawed.

That’s the thing about the commandment “Love your neighbor.” Those situations aren’t about me and my fears; they’re about my neighbor and his or her needs. Especially because in that situation, I had the car and jumper cables my neighbor may have needed. But I had chosen the easy path. More accurately, I chose the sidewalk that quickly took us in the opposite direction. I chose to let my fears and discomfort win. I chose not to help.

The temptation to keep from boldly proclaiming the Gospel in person when given the opportunity.

Like the apostle Paul in Philippians 3, I can boast quite the Christian upbringing. However, actually talking out loud to people about Jesus is not something that comes naturally to me, mostly because I fear how people might react to my lack of speaking charisma.

For as much Christian education as I have received in my lifetime, and as much doctrine, Scripture and theology as I have digested in class and regurgitated on tests, I am not the poster child for sharing my faith.

Usually because in the rare moments when opportunities come up either to start a conversation that includes Jesus or to add Jesus to the conversation, I freeze. You know how you’re supposed to pick either fight or flight in stressful situations? There is definitely a third, unsung category—freeze—that is my approach. I freeze and think stuff like, “What if I talk about Jesus and they think I’m a big dork?” Or “What if I say something about Jesus that really offends them?” It’s the topic of shame, really. Like, “What if I feel ashamed because they don’t react kindly to what I’m telling them?”

I’m learning to accept the tension of respecting my own needs while also learning to value the needs of my neighbor. While it is great to see our culture better understanding the characteristics and strengths of introverts, I need to remember that being an introvert is not a hall pass from the command to love and sacrifice on behalf of my neighbor.

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